Pizza in Phoenix
By Catherine Hathaway
Crisp autumn air, craft beer, local music and a warm slice of pizza will continue to lure Valley residents to Margaret T. Hance Park for the Phoenix Pizza Festival on Saturday, November 18.
The festival will feature approximately 15 pizza vendors selling slices for $2 to $4 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“The festival brings together everybody in the Phoenix area who loves pizza,” says Austin Pickett, who, for the third year, is participating with his Fireside Pizza food truck. His father, Mark Pickett, owns the truck. The company bakes pizza in a trailer that houses a full-sized wood-fire oven that cooks the pies in less than 2 minutes.
Festival founder David Tyda describes it as a picnic atmosphere. There will be lawn games, craft beer stands and a tent for children to decorate their own paper pizzas. Local bands will entertain.
“We have a great line-up this year,” Tyda says. “A couple of my favorite local bands. I found this band last year called People Who Could Fly. They were so great for the event, so they’re playing again, and the Haymarket Squares, which has this kind of bluegrassy, Americana sound, which is perfect for eating pizza and drinking craft beer.”
Tyda bases the festival’s capacity on the number of attending vendors.
“That limits my attendance because I don’t want lines to get so long for pizza,” Tyda says. “This is turning out to be a blessing in disguise. The event has this great, intimate feel at only 3,500 to 5,000 people. If you’re an attendee, and you nabbed a ticket to it, you feel a little bit like you’re in on a secret.”
Tickets are available in advance only due to the event’s intimacy. He hopes, however, that the festival will gain traction with pizza vendors so he can grow the event.
“I would love to make this an event as big as my taco festival with 50 restaurants and 20,000 people,” Tyda says of the Arizona Taco Festival at Salt River Fields. “Pizza is a tricky thing to do at an event. Somebody either has to have a mobile wood-fired oven or be in close proximity of the event.”
Phoenix Pizza Festival fosters community growth. Vendors can keep the money they make from the event, which partners with Downtown Phoenix Inc.
“The crew over at Downtown Phoenix Inc. has just become friends over the years,” Tyda says. “What they do is help make downtown Phoenix a thriving place. One of those ways is to support local events. They will help with marketing, hold the liquor license and just generally get behind the event.”
Downtown Phoenix Inc.’s president for marketing and events, R.J. Price, says a success for Tyda’s festival is a success for downtown Phoenix. Price speaks highly of Tyda, and is impressed by his influence in the area.
“He’s really done tremendous things to raise the standard of festivals here,” Price says. “He’s really been a leader in the industry to make sure that festivals payoff for their attendees and are inclusive, original and fun.”
Price hopes events like the Phoenix Pizza Festival will encourage attendees to frequently return to downtown.
“A lot of these folks don’t come downtown all the time,” Price says. “They don’t work downtown. They come down for specific purposes, whether that is a baseball game or a beer festival or a theater performance. To be able to get them to come down here in the daytime is a really huge thing. That’s why we love the Phoenix Pizza Festival.”
Phoenix Pizza Festival, Margaret T. Hance Park, 1201 N. Third Street, Phoenix, phoenix.pizza, 11 am. to 5 p.m. Saturday, November 18, $10 in advance only.
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