TAMPA — Frozen, on the rocks or with Corona beer cans tipped into them, the drinks at this year's Tampa Bay Margarita Festival downtown were selling faster than the bartenders could pour.
More than 7,000 people were expected Saturday at downtown's Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park for the sold-out festival, which featured live music, food trucks and 35 different types of margaritas.
“We want it to grow,” said Monica Varner, one of the festival producers. “It's fun. It's a holiday weekend.”
It is the second year for the Tampa Bay Margarita Festival, put on by promotions company Big City Events. The event, which attracted about 5,000 people last year, expanded into Kiley Gardens adjacent to the park to accommodate this year's larger crowd.
The 80 bartenders went through about 18,000 pounds of ice, 2,600 bottles of tequila and a truckload of mixers. Organizers estimated 40,000 margaritas would be concocted throughout the event.
While live bands performed on stage, festivalgoers meandered around the park or lounge on picnic blankets or in lawn chairs.
Danielle Baur and Kaitlin Rayburn, who were visiting from out of town, stood to the side near the stage. The music and the atmosphere are great, they said, but they were most impressed by the variety of margaritas.
“There's a watermelon one that's very good,” Rayburn said.
In the VIP area, Nicole Sparago and Jordan Offutt sampled different flavors.
The mango jalapeno and peach cobbler were good, but prickly pear was their favorite, they said.
Offutt ran in the Color Me Rad 5K at the Florida State Fairgrounds on Saturday morning, he said, so he didn't feel guilty about all the samples.
“I burned so many calories this morning,” he said. “I'm good for a drink fest.”