Attention taco lovers: The Arizona Taco Festival is back with contests, drinks at Salt River Fields, 10/14-15

About 50 local restaurants will go head-to-head to see whose tacos are the best, and festival-goers get to taste it all.

Aaron Pool, owner of the Mexican restaurant Gadzooks, is looking for his third win for best chicken taco at this year’s Arizona Taco Festival this Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 14-15.

About 50 local restaurants will go head-to-head to see whose tacos are the best. Pool’s tomatillo chicken taco has won best chicken taco two of the four years he’s entered it.

“We truly believe that our taco is the best,” Pool said. “But this is as competitive as a taco event can get. We take it seriously, but we still try to have fun with it.”

To be sure, the prize money for the winners at this event is some serious dough. About $10,000 will be awarded to those restaurants that bring the best tacos.

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And if you attend this event, you get to taste these award-winning creations for only $2 each. Last year, more than 100,000 tacos were sold to more than 30,000 festival-goers.

And though the focus is obviously on munching tacos, there are plenty of other attractions at this two-day event.

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Tacos are prepared by staff at the Rubio's. (Photo: The Republic)

For those serious diehard taco lovers, there will be a taco-eating contest. This competition is all about speed and less about amount consumed. Would be contestants can sign up at the event, but there are only six slots to fill so contestants are chosen on a first-come, first-served basis.

If the thought of watching people speed-eat tacos isn’t quite spicy enough for you, you’ll want to catch the hot chile-pepper-eating contest. This too is open to anyone wanting to compete, but event organizers warn that this is for true chile-heads who can take the heat. 

Whereas most chile-eating contests work up to making their contestants eat a ghost pepper (known to be incredibly hot), the Arizona Taco Festival competition starts with the ghost pepper, working through the Carolina Reaper.

Chile pepper growers create hybrid chiles specifically for this contest. And for the first time, the winner will receive a $500 cash prize.

After all that excitement, mellow things out with a cool margarita or belly-warming tequila.

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Gabriella Arias and Carlos Bello get tacos from Taco Guild at the annual Arizona Taco Festival at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on Oct. 17, 2015. (Photo: Alexis Macklin/The Republic)

The Margarita Tent features 12 of the Valley’s top mixologists creating margarita samples in a showdown called Margarita Wars. The tent will be open on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Margarita Wars judges will pick a favorite margarita, but festival attendees will also select a people’s choice winner.

Ross Simon, owner of Bitter and Twisted, will be one of the bartenders on hand in the margarita tent on Sunday. Though Simon won’t give up his exact recipe for his margarita, he is willing to list the combo of flavors. His unique margarita will have citrus notes with a bit of sage, hibiscus and beet. And the rim will be decked out with beet-flavored salt. He has named it the Heart Beet of Mexico.

“It’s an evolving cocktail event,” he said. “(The competition) has high integrity, and they keep it fun, too.”

The Tequila Expo tent will be open on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. with more than 100 different tequilas to sample.

For a bit of fun, attendees are invited to pre-register their Chihuahuas in the Chihuahua Beauty Pageant on Sunday. The pup with the most pizzazz will take home the trophy and its very own doggie swag bag.

The application fee for the contest goes to the Arizona Chihuahua Rescue.

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Selma Kemmou, Shama Ross, Lauren Harber and Megan Yock eat Street Tacos at the annual Arizona Taco Festival at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on Oct. 17, 2015. (Photo: Alexis Macklin/The Republic)

Keep the little ones happy in the Kids Zone, which features about 10 attractions including a bungee trampoline, mechanical bull, hamster balls, orbitron, slides and bounce houses. Lucha Libre wrestling shows will also take place all weekend long.

Live entertainment can be heard throughout the event with bands like The Coconauts, Mariachi Pasion and Ritmo Latino playing on stage.

New this year is the RFID cashless ticketing system. Attendees will use RFID wristbands with a set dollar amount to purchase food and drink during the event. It’s as simple as a tap of the band to make a purchase, and the band can be reloaded with more cash.

“I like to remind people that (the Arizona Taco Festival) is the original taco festival," said David Tyda, event co-founder and organizer. "But the thing that I’m most proud of is the $10,000 prize fund for the taco competition."

And it's serious competition.

"Our judging isn’t just a couple of celebrities. The judges are certified, and there are very strict rules,” Tyda said.

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Arizona Taco Festival

When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 14-15.

Where: Salt River Fields, Loop 101 and Indian Bend Road on the Salt River Reservation.

Admission: $12 general admission, $100 VIP, $20 additional fee for entrance to Tequila or Margarita Expo, free for kids 12 and under.

Details: aztacofestival.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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Article Attention taco lovers: The Arizona Taco Festival is back with contests, drinks at Salt River Fields, 10/14-15 compiled by www.azcentral.com

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