Envision a day outside Nissan Stadium with tacos as far as the eye can see. You are passing by sizzling grills and food trucks, only stopping for a taco to eat — on your way to the next taco option…
The first-ever Nashville Taco Festival, produced by Foody Events, was held in the parking lots of Nissan Stadium close to downtown Nashville and was the second culinary extravaganza I’ve experienced at the stadium. (Food and beverage events as a use for sports stadiums on off-weekends wins my vote.)
Nashville’s first annual Taco Festival took place in early May. With festival hours running from noon to 8 p.m. each day and reasonable ticket prices as well as great VIP options, there was plenty of time to get your money’s worth, eat all the tacos, and do all the activities.
Some cities around America have been celebrating the taco for years, while other cities are only recently hopping on the bandwagon. Los Angeles is on its fifth annual Tacolandia (curated by James Beard Award-winning Bill Esparza and presented by LA Weekly) while cities like Chicago and Scottsdale, Arizona, have been doing it for years too. Why not Nashville? Foody Events asked that same question and took matters into its own hands. Turns out, Nashville isn’t the only city to forget about such an epic food festival; Philadelphia and San Diego are two other cities taco-festing for the first time in 2017.
David Bell of Foody Events gave The Daily Meal some background about the festival:
“It was really surreal to see the event come to life after so much planning and from so many different groups of people. My friend Andrew Sanhueza and I started working on this event in October 2015 and originally planned for May of 2016 at the Fairgrounds. We decided to push it back a year to do some research on other Taco Fests, as we’d seen them popping up in a bunch of different cities.
“What we’d seen is that these other Taco Fests were overselling the events. They would have ridiculously long lines to get in with long lines to get a beer and tacos too and would also run out of food, tequila, beer, margarita mix, you name it. There would be no seating, shade, toilet paper or just other small details. We actually went to four similar events and contacted other vendors and organizers and just wanted to learn from some of the best without having to learn the hard way.
“Initially, we wanted to make the event larger or free, but we knew that long lines and running out of food would be disastrous. So we expanded our team with the additions of Rick Rodriguez, Cristina Blasquez, and Amy Sommers and decided on a more central location to downtown Nashville, at Nissan Stadium. Nissan was an incredible venue and a great team to work with. I always want to give a special thank you to the Dos Equis team for all of their support in making the event possible.”
There was something for everyone at Nashville Taco Fest. You could eat at more than 25 taco vendors, choose from 13 dessert and beverage vendors, and wander all day through the merchant tents without worrying about long lines or feeling overcrowded. There were contests too, which ranged from a best taco competition to a hot pepper eating contest, a taco eating competition, and even a Chihuahua costume contest.
Our winner of the Chihuahua competition! Up next it's a habanero pepper eating contest!!! pic.twitter.com/lcSLo27V0k
— Nashville Taco Fest (@NashvilleTaco) May 7, 2017
The festival grounds offered family-friendly zones and VIP zones, but the festival itself was spread far and wide. One minute the mariachi marching bands came by and the next you’ll turn around and see the beautiful Mexican ballet folklórico dancing. There was a salsa dance tent, mechanical bull, hourly taco giveaways, and live bands with enough space around to take a seat and listen and take a break from the walking.
The Acapulco Burrito and Music City Brisket taco trucks were a couple of my personal favorites, but the festival judges also identified a few official favorites: Freebirds World Burrito (Best Veggie Taco), Twisted Tacos (Best Chicken Taco and Best Seafood Taco), Pig + Pie Catering (Best BBQ Taco), Coyote Blues (Best Beef Taco), and Music City Brisket (Best in Show).
More than 5,000 visitors from 41 states including the District of Columbia attended Nashville Taco Fest, as well as international visitors from Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. The majority of the crowd was from out of state while about a quarter were from Tennessee and a small percentage from Davidson County, according to Foody Events.
Only one question remains: Will Nashville Taco Fest do it again?
Foody Events said: “¡Si!”
“Seeing everything come together and people from all different parts of the community enjoying each other and also getting to express themselves in music, art, dance and of course the wide range of taco creativity going on, was really special to see and be a part of,” Bell said. “We've already begun working on next year's Taco Fest and will be increasing our vendor roster to be able to accommodate a larger audience. There are also some activities we're excited to add on and we're already in talks with some prominent music acts!”