People who enjoyed the food and music at the last taco festival in Yuma likely hadn’t counted on waiting more than two years for the event to return.
Blame it on COVID-19. The coronavirus forced cancelation of the festival in 2020 and prompted its postponement earlier this year.
But this week, finally, the Tacos & Tunes Music Fest, is taking place. And it’s a bigger than ever.
Once essentially a one-day festival, the event presented by the Caballeros de Yuma is expanding to a two-day affair starting Friday at Desert Sun Stadium, 1280 Desert Sun Drive. And, it will be preceded Thursday by a pre-party hosted by the city of Yuma on Main Street in the downtown.
The live entertainment also has expanded, starting with Latin music on Friday. Saturday night’s concert will feature local and indie bands, with country star Michael Ray closing the show.
And don’t forget the food. Folded tortillas brimming with beef, pork, chicken, fish and other, unique fillings will be served up by vendors over the two days at the baseball stadium.
The Caballeros this week were hoping to recruit 60 or more food vendors to work the festival. While tacos are the signatures dish, as the name of event implies, they won’t be the only one.
“It’s going to be anything,” said Louie Gradias, chairman of the festival for the Caballeros. “We really opened it up to everything. But it will be primarily tacos.”
The city started the festival more than a decade ago, hosting it at the stadium and nearby civic center. Later, Caballeros de Yuma got involved in the event as a co-organizer, and was getting reading to co-host it with the city in April 2020.
But the festival, like other activities planned in the Yuma area that spring, ended up being suspended as part of efforts to contain the surging COVID-19 infection rate. With cases numbers still high in early 2021, the festival was a no-go for April – but not for the year.
The Caballeros, having assumed most of the responsibility as host, decided to reschedule the festival for this week, at a time when Yuma’s heat has begun to relent and evening temperatures are milder – and also a time when the event would not conflict with fall activities planned by other groups in the area.
Whether the Caballeros will still with late September dates for the festival remains to be seen, Gradias said. “We’re going to see how it works out, and how the community responds to the weather.”
The city wanted to continue playing a part in the celebration, Gradias said, so it will host the festival pre-party beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday along Main Street. Festivities are slated to continue till 9 p.m., with live music by Kimba Light, an Afro-Cuban band from San Diego whose style fuses salsa, timba, merengue, bachata, reggaeton, hip-hop and funk.
On Friday, gates at Desert Sun Stadium open at 3 p.m. The musical lineup for the first evening of the festival begins with the Grammy-winning Mariachi Divas, followed by Metalachi, a band that fuses heavy metal and mariachi music. Closing will be the cumbia group La Sonora Dinamita.
The festival resumes at 11 a.m. Saturday, with performances that day by bands from the area, followed by Liquid Blue, an indie pop group that has played around the world. Michael Ray will close that day as part of his Just the Way I Am tour.
People who buy raffle tickets at the festival will have a chance to win a 1937 Ford Sedan. The vintage vehicle had been slated to be raffled in March at Midnight at the Oasis, and while the Caballeros ended up canceling that car show, they saved the raffle for this week’s festival.
Raffle tickets can be purchased for $20 a piece at a booth in the stadium Friday and Saturday, prior to the drawing of the winner Saturday night.
“The car came from a builder out of San Diego,” Gradias said. “We know they invested $80,000 in it.” Given the cost of a raffle ticket, “it’s a pretty wise investment if you’re the winner.”
A kid zone equipped with carnival rides and other attractions will be set up in the stadium for youngsters’ amusement during the festival, Gradias added.
Gradias said the Caballeros will accept registrations through Thursday night from food vendors who want to work the festival. To sign up, vendors should go to the event’s website at https://www.caballeros.org/Tacos_Tunes.html