Street fest brings culture to downtown Chandler
By Connor Dziawura
Metalachi’s “Master of Trumpets” El Cucuy doesn’t go for any ordinary taco.
A musician with “The World’s First and Only Heavy Metal Mariachi Band,” which appeared on season 10 of America’s Got Talent, El Cucuy has a bit of a sweet tooth, it seems.
“If you get some taco and you put some churros inside with a little bit of chocolate syrup and some ice cream, like an ice cream taco, that would be great, man,” he says, pauses, and then laughs.
El Cucuy and his bandmates in Metalachi will headline the seventh annual Rockin’ Taco Street Fest in downtown Chandler.
“It’s crazy because I know it’s going to be pretty hot when we get there, and I think an ice cream taco would hit the spot for me,” he adds with a laugh.
The Rockin’ Taco Street Fest will return to the Dr. A.J. Chandler Park from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, September 15.
The Rockin’ Taco Street Fest has grown from an understated 200 guests to 10,000 taco-eating fans, according to Jen Pruett, the festival’s spokeswoman.
“The event started seven years ago as a parking lot party at El Palacio restaurant in Chandler and it just kept growing,” Pruett explains. “On year five we decided to move it to the bigger space in downtown Chandler so we could just make it a big full-sized festival because everyone in the southwest loves tacos, right?”
The festival definitely boasts a love of tacos. With 20 vendors – restaurants and food trucks – covering a large variety of taco styles, guests can likely find something to appease their individual taste buds. Each vendor – from Casa Rey’s to Drive Wood Fired Grill, Nando’s Mexican Café, Z’Tejas, Pokitrition and Taste of Korea – will bring its own flair to the art of the taco. As Pruett puts it, there will be “a pretty good range of really different types of tacos.”
Food will be plentiful, with other snacks set to include churros, elote, kettle corn, snow cones, ice cream and more. But even with these options available, Pruett clarifies “tacos are obviously the main star of the show.”
Affordability is key, so each vendor will have at least one taco priced at $2. Other food items and beverages range from $2 to $12.
Food isn’t just about appeasing an appetite. Brave guests will use their talents to face off in taco-, burrito- and elote-eating competitions, for which there are $100 cash prizes.
When a thirst arises, adults of age can purchase alcohol to go with their tacos, too. SanTan Brewing Company will be present, and guests can get a little tipsy with a variety of margaritas, Mexican beers and vodka cocktails throughout the festival grounds. Cool, refreshing nonalcoholic beverages will include frescas, horchata and lemonade.
New this year is the Tequila Tavern, a tequila-tasting area. Entry into this exclusive zone is $30 online and is for guests ages 21 or older. These tickets won’t be available at the gate, and space is limited, so interested guests should jump on the opportunity early.
This limited-availability ticket grants purchasers entry into the main festival, access to an unlimited chips-and-salsa bar, and 10 half-ounce tequila samples from a variety of brands.
“For some people that maybe floats their boat,” Pruett says. “It’s not a very large area; we’re only going to sell 100 tickets to that, so it’s just kind of more just a different experience for people.”
Throughout the day, guests will stay entertained with Lucha Libre Voz wrestling, a custom lowrider car show and dancing from Ballet Folklorico Quetzalli. To show off your own vehicle in the lowrider car show, registration is $50 per car or $25 per bike.
A kids’ zone will bring bouncers, piñatas and other games into the mix. Aside from Metalachi’s headlining performance, other music will include the Santana tribute band Evil Waze marking its third year at the festival.
“Besides all the delicious and good stuff to get you drunk there, we look forward to playing for the people of the Phoenix area again,” El Cucuy says. “We have a really good following there and it just feels like every time we go there we see a lot of familiar faces and people that keep coming back to our shows. I think that’s what we look forward to the most is just how they like to party there.”
El Cucuy says people who see Metalachi live for the first time often leave with a new impression of the group, realizing it’s more than just a funny gimmick. Their unique twist on the two genres – mariachi and metal – attracts fans from both aisles, too.
They will cover anything from Journey and Bon Jovi to Slayer and Iron Maiden. A crowd favorite, he says, is their interpretation of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
“The first thing I would say is it’s not what you’re going to expect; it’s better than what you’re going to expect to see,” he says. “And then also just basically get ready to party because that’s what we’re there for. We’re there for people to dance, to move, to feel good, to sing. It’s wonderful, and for everybody.”
Access to a VIP zone including private shaded areas, private restrooms and seating costs $100 during the online presale period. Modern Tortilla will cater the area, and patrons will be allowed six alcoholic beverages with their ticket. Like the Tequila Tavern, these tickets won’t be available at the gate and the area is limited to patrons ages 21 or older.
To top the festival off, a portion of its proceeds will benefit the Downtown Chandler Community Partnership, a nonprofit 501(c) 6 organization.
“All of the events that we do, we always have a nonprofit community partner,” Pruett explains. “For the events that we do in downtown Chandler, we always benefit the Downtown Chandler Community Partnership because that money goes right back into helping the downtown Chandler community, businesses, the park, bringing more events to downtown. We produce four or five events in downtown Chandler every year, so it’s really important for us to give back to that community where we produce our events.”
Rockin’ Taco Street Fest, Dr. A.J. Chandler Park, 178 E. Commonwealth Avenue, Chandler, 602.276.2499, rockintacoaz.com, noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, September 15, tickets start at $10, children 12 and younger admitted free.