By David M. Brown
This Cinco de Mayo, do Cinco de Mario.
On one desert spring day, you can be a Saved by the Bell Look-A-Like Contest winner, shop the Mercado, cheer your favorite in the Kentucky Derby, quaff rosés and mint juleps and meet TV star, businessman and event impresario Mario Lopez and his family.
On Saturday, May 5, the two-time Emmy winner and star of the ’90s sitcom, Saved by the Bell visits Scottsdale to celebrate the world’s first “Cinco de Mario,” his innovative cover of Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates the Mexican Army’s underdog victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, May 5, 1862.
From the creators of Arizona Taco Festival, the event begins at 11 a.m. and continues to 6 p.m. at Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza downtown.
“If you’re like me, you love to enjoy good food and drinks with friends and family, and Cinco de Mario is the place to do just that,” says Lopez, who was A.C. Slater on Saved by the Bell.
“I have always wanted to throw a party on an epic scale that included all of my favorite things. We are launching it in Scottsdale and then planning the second one at the end of the year in Los Angeles.”
Besides Saved by the Bell, Lopez is known for his hosting duties, on Extra, a nationally syndicated daily entertainment show; iHeartMedia’s On with Mario Lopez and Countdown with Mario Lopez, and Candy Crush, a televised game show based on the online game. The always-busy Lopez also does a boxing-focused podcast, The 3 Knockdown Rule.
“We decided to put together a big fiesta since Cinco de Mayo falls on a Saturday this year, and it’s also the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby, and Rick Phillips, my partner, had become friends with Mario, who wanted to throw a festival,” explains David Tyda, co-principal, with Phillips, of Phoenix-based The Taco Group.
The two taco-loving businessmen inaugurated the Arizona Taco Festival eight years ago and have since produced others nationwide, this year in New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
“The event will remind people that Scottsdale is the place to be,” Tyda says “Our location, Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza, is home to marquee events like the Scottsdale Culinary Festival.
“There are plenty of shaded areas to walk around, while discovering festival elements like the rosé wine garden or craft beer area. The city of Scottsdale does such a fantastic job maintaining that park, and we’re looking forward to activating it with an event that feels fresh, inclusive and festive.”
Lopez was quick to agree to the location after hearing about it.
“Rick suggested it, as Scottsdale is his backyard and the home to his Taco Festival,” Lopez says. “I love Scottsdale and travel there quite often, so I thought it would be the perfect place to launch the event.”
Among the many offerings is a Mercado, or marketplace, where families can shop for Mexican gourmet goods in a farmers market-like setting with a handmade tortilla station, ceviche bar, and salsa section as well as arts, crafts and live painting.
For the Saved By The Bell Look-a-Like Contest, patrons are encouraged to impress A.C. Slater, that is Lopez, with costumes resembling beloved characters from the show.
“Winners of the contest will receive tickets to screenings of Extra TV, Ellen, Steve Harvey and other popular shows,” Tyda said.
Those with ticket upgrades to the Derby-themed Mansion VIP Tent can enjoy the Kentucky Derby with mint juleps, screening of the great race and a Churchill Downs vibe.
Trending rosé wines are at the Vino Rosa Experience. A tasting pass is $20 for eight samples. And, at the Hopping Around Experience tent, guests can sample craft beers and play a game of cornhole. A tasting pass is also $20 for eight samples.
Lopez is bringing friends with him, and family. Comedian Frankie Quinones will be conducting a fun Cholofit Yoga class. “His YouTube series Cholofit Workout has posted more than 2 million views,” Tyda says.
In addition, local bands and musicians will perform throughout the day, culminating in a concert by The Sugarhill Gang, hosted by actor, taco shop owner and now donut impresario, Danny Trejo.
“Frankie and Danny are great friends of mine. I ran into them and told them about the event and before you knew it, they were on board,” Lopez says. “I am hoping that this casual and fun ‘joining in’ of my friends turns into a great thing for the event.”
At The Kids Zone, children and parents can visit a craft area, where they can learn the art of making papel picado, jump on rides and play games. “Papel picado is a Mexican Folk Art craft I used to do as a kid,” Lopez says. “Basically, they are ornate paper cut-outs.”
The Lopez clan will be there. They star with him on YouTube’s The Lopez Family, featuring his wife, Courtney, their two children and two dogs.
“I am bringing my entire my family to Scottsdale, but not the pets,” Lopez explains. “However, Cinco de Mario is dog friendly, so bring them, too.”
Cinco de Mario, Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza, 3939 N. Drinkwater Boulevard, Scottsdale, cincodemario.com/tickets, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 5, $20-$250.
For more Cinco de Mayo parties around town, visit our events page.