From mango jalapeno to raspberry peach, exotic margarita flavors will shake things up at the second annual Tampa Bay Margarita Festival on May 24.
Margarita mixes — and children — are still banned at the event that ushers in summer and allows people 21 and older to sample unlimited amounts of more than 40 tequila brands.
Organizer Ferdian Jap, of South Tampa, said they are expanding the variety of flavors from nine last year to more than 35 flavor combinations, including the traditional lime, sour mix and agave nectar.
The festival will take place on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend from 2 to 10 p.m. at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, 600 N. Ashley Drive.
“Margaritas are definitely the drink of summer and people love it because you can pretty much play around, experiment and create any flavors that you want and it still tastes great and refreshing,” he said.
Jap, who owns Big City Events with business partner Monica Varner, is known for coordinating popular events, including the Tampa Tee Off and Gasparilla Film Festival.
He expects people to be pleased by how streamlined this year’s event will be from check-in to drink purchasing.
“We went to 80 bartenders expecting about 7,500 people this year,” Jap said. “Last year, we were not prepared for the crowd of about 5,000. Many people complained about the lines that it took an hour to get a drink.”
He said that wouldn’t be a problem because of the increase in bartenders as well as the implementation of a system they practiced at their other festivals, including the Summer of Rum Festival, Bourbon & Brew Country Bash Festival and Spring Beer Fling.
Having more shade at the event that concludes with a fireworks display may also please people.
“We are bringing in more umbrellas for shade, like all over the park,” Jap said. “There will be a cool zone as well.”
He said they discovered last year that they couldn’t keep up with the demand for frozen margaritas. This year, they are bringing in a 40-foot frozen drink machine that is capable of serving 10,000 frozen drinks.
He said people may also bring their own chairs or rent chairs at the event.
Food at the Margarita Festival will be a combination of food trucks and food vendors. Los Lonely Boys will entertain the crowd along with five local and regional bands.
“Having Los Lonely Boys headline seems to be the perfect fit to a Tex-Mex-themed festival,” Jap said. “Not only are they popular after their Grammy-winning hit, ‘Heaven,’ but they have a new album that just came out recently and Margarita Festival in Tampa is their only stop in Florida.”
In addition to the main event May 24, a “Grand Tequila Tasting” will take place the evening of May 23 at the Epicurean Hotel, 1207 S. Howard Ave., Tampa. It will feature more than 40 tequilas and brand representatives as well as food pairings.
Price for admission to the Margarita Festival is $15 in advance, $20 at the door. VIP tickets cost $85 in advance and $100 at the door. Pets are permitted at the event.
To buy tickets, visit www.tampamargaritafest.com.