In these parts, you don't need blue blood to be considered royal. You just need to make terrific tacos worthy of a title — and crown.
Hungry hordes will crown Yuma's third Taco King (or Queen) during Saturday's Taco Festival, an event expected to draw thousands of folks in search of fantastic food.
“We had 5,000 people attend last year, but we're preparing for about 10,000 this year,” said Stephanie McMillin, an events specialist with the Yuma Civic Center. “We are introducing quite a few new events this year. Plus, this event is really just catching on. People are really talking about it. We are getting calls from people far, far away wanting to come for the festival.”
Eat a small breakfast on Saturday, then head over to Desert Sun Stadium, located off South Avenue A. The Taco Festival will run from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Admission is free.
In addition to the big taco competition itself, this year's festival will feature two new competitions: the Salsa queen contest and jalapeño pepper prince contest (although kings or princesses can also win).
“We are going to stay with the whole royal court theme. It's just for fun!” McMillin said.
Another added perk will be a visit by cookbook author Kelley Coffeen. The Yuma native, who has appeared on “Good Morning America” and hosts a cooking show in El Paso, Texas, is the author of the cookbook “300 Best Taco Recipes.”
The salsa contest is the day before the festival, taking place at the Yuma Civic Center. There will be six categories and no age range. The winner will be announced the next day.
McMillin said she's looking forward to the jalapeño-eating contest, which will offer contestants as many fresh jalapeños as they can choke down. “We will make them sign a waiver, of course,” she added.
In addition to the new contests, this year's Taco Festival will give folks a new way to wash down all those tacos. There will be a tequila-tasting tent serving up at least 30 varieties of tequila, including some from boutique distilleries. The tequila will be free, but people will use tickets that will be provided.
As for the Taco King (or Queen) competition, organizers are aiming for about 50 competitors. That's up by 10 from last year. Six categories will range from pork to seafood and almost everything in between.
“Last year we had lengua (tongue), cabeza (head), and we even had stingray tacos and tofu tacos,” McMillin said. “The variety is just crazy! One vendor had tacos made from some kind of cheek meat and it was the most savory, scrumptious meat I'd ever tasted.”
The taco monarch and category winners will be chosen by a panel of judges. Prizes will range from cash and gold pendants to etched glass cutting boards.
Vendor applications are due by Wednesday. The cost is $150 to register for the taco competition. For more information, call 373-5040.
Darin Fenger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6860.