Taco bout festivals! Back-to-back Jax events celebrate Mexican culture
Hispanic Heritage Month began Thursday, and with it comes not one but two Jacksonville taco fests to enjoy.
The two festivals — The Original Jax Taco Fest this weekend and the Jacksonville Taco and Tequila Festival next weekend — will both take place in the Urban Core, but they each will have something quite different to offer.
The Original Jax Taco Fest is Friday, Sept. 16, and Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds, near TIAA Bank Field.
This year’s is the third edition of the event, which was created by Cesar Eduardo Marfil Rubio and debuted in 2017 in James Weldon Johnson Park. Rubio is partnering with several others this year, including Zergihno Garcia, the owner of Jacksonville’s El Agave Azul Mexican restaurants and a fellow co-founder of the Mexican Chamber of Commerce of Northeast Florida.
Janette Falcon, the CEO of Latin Wave TV & Media and another one of the fest’s organizers this year, says: “We maintain our festival as true to Mexican traditions as possible, bringing the public the color and flair of Mexican culture and customs. Ours is not a concert; it is a family-oriented, pet-friendly environment where everyone will find something they will enjoy.”
To that end, Falcon notes that on Friday evening, the event will celebrate the independence of Mexico, and attendees are invited to wear their country’s flag colors, regardless of where they are from.
The fest is also a means to boost small businesses, with more than 50 local vendors expected to attend — 20 of them taco trucks, including El Agave Azul, Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant and the Tacos Tacorriendo Food Truck.
“At The Original Jax Taco Fest we are offering the original homemade tacos, made by the people who know tacos [best] — the Mexican chefs,” Falcon says.
Other vendors will offer beverages (including the alcoholic variety), desserts and other foods for those who don’t care for tacos.
The Downtown event is also known for its competitions, with plenty of them this year.
“The Chihuahua race is our main contest, where small dogs are entered, dressed in costume of course, and are timed when they race to their masters,” explains Falcon. “The hot chili-eating contest is also a Mexican tradition that is brought to Jacksonville through the Original Jax Taco Fest. … We will also have a truck exhibit and competition with prizes, which is also a Mexican favorite.”
The Jacksonville Taco and Tequila Fest is next Saturday and Sunday in Five Points’ Riverside Park.
Organizer Charles Wagoner of 904 Happy Hour and the Wagoner Foundation says: “Why wouldn't Jax love tacos? We are privileged to live in a city with so many great, locally owned restaurants, chefs and food trucks.”
The second edition of his festival will offer Mexican cuisine from more than 25 restaurants and food trucks (serving up tacos, street corn and churros, among other items), alongside tequila stations, craft margaritas, local makers, games, and live music and mural painting. The event will also raise funds — with a goal of $20,000 to $30,000 for several nonprofits, including Make-A-Wish, Boys & Girls Club and Chemo Noir.
As for what’s new this year, Wagoner says there will be triple the number of bars and bartenders, more taco makers, three stages of live music and artists creating live.
Local vendors include Flying Iguana, Tepeyollotl Cerveceria, Viva Mi Familia Jax, Takaria Food Truck, El Agave Azul Jax, Riverside Liquors, Burlock & Barrel and Marlin & Barrel. Many of them will offer bites and beverages unique to the event.
The musicians slated to perform include local favorites DJ Nick Fresh and LPT, as well as global acts like Roosevelt and Night Tales.
And, as part of the festival’s “colores y creatividad” initiative, attendees will be able to observe and connect with a number of notable Jax-based artists such as Elena Ohlender, Ansley Randall, Nico Holderbaum, Scottie Cousin and Housa as they paint murals or create their art.
Wagoner says he expects the festival to be the “biggest event Riverside has ever seen.”
And for those folks who wish to explore other Latin flavors, the First Coast Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is offering La Ruta Del Sabor (Tour of Flavors) throughout Hispanic Heritage Month. Diners can purchase a ticket (or several) through the Chamber for a three-course meal at Latin Creations (Puerto Rican), Havana Jax (Cuban), Si Senor (Mexican), Delicias Colombianas (Colombian) and Mambos Cafe (Cuban).
For tickets and more information, visit: