Jason Marzano and Alyssa Robles were old pros at this.
They found a tree for some shade to protect them from the hot sun.
They set up blankets on the ground for 7-year-old Mason Robles and 5-year-old Riley Robles.
They set up chairs.
And, in a move commonly seen in the massive lawn at Ravinia in Highland Park, they set up a little table carried in on a wagon.
“This is Jason’s table,” Alyssa Robles said. “It’s perfect.”
It’s almost like they have been coming to the village of New Lenox’s Food Fight: Taco Fest event for years.
But, like thousands of others who came to the New Lenox Commons Saturday, it was their first time as the village debuted the event.
What brought this group to Taco Fest?
“Tacos,” Alyssa Robles said. “I love tacos. I had a taco from Taco Maui with pineapple on it. I love pineapple on tacos and I like the authentic tacos.”
Nine vendors participated in a contest for Best Taco, with New Lenox restaurant Spin Taco voted the winner by fest goers. Tacos were available for $5.
While some restaurants and trucks had huge colorful displays and advertising, Spin Taco was understated. The restaurant, located at 1005 W. Laraway Road, brought out a simple white tent to prepare and serve their entry. If it wasn’t for a small sign in the front of the tent, it would be easy to miss the name.
The restaurant won the fest with a Spin Special. It was a taco with steak topped with house sauce, guacamole and fresco cheese.
Other participating restaurants were Bourbon’s Smokehouse, Drew’s Dogs, Fast Eddie’s Tacos and More, La Flo De Morelos, Pico De Gallo, Ranch Frostie, Smokin’ Z BBQ and Tacos Before Vatos.
Aside from tacos, tacos and more tacos, the day and night event featured musical performances from Within 4 Days and Sundance, a Selena tribute performance, a Chihuahua beauty pageant and a hot pepper eating contest.
A pup named Peanut won the Chihuahua pageant and officials decided to be generous and respectful to those eating hot peppers on a hot and humid day, naming each participants a winner.
For the kids, there were bounce houses, face painting and crafts.
A dog named Mocha, owned by New Lenox’s Jen Jackman, was not eligible for the Chihuahua event. Jackman is not sure what kind of mixed breed Mocha is, but she’s not a Chihuahua.
The dog did, however, make an impression. Not long before Jackman and Mokena’s Jim Bowlds entered the fest, people wanted to pet Mocha, who was dressed as a taco.
“We saw a sign a few weeks ago and just thought we would stop by,” Jackman said. “We love tacos.”
July is a wildly busy month in the Commons with 12 events starting with Independence Day and ending with a Chalk Walk on July 29.
With 11 other events going on in a small window, why add a new event like the Taco Fest?
“It’s kind of my job to come up with one more thing,” joked Special Events Coordinator Beth Alderson.
Social media helped hatch this fest.
“It’s going to sound so silly, but last year there was a post on one of our neighborhood Facebook pages and somebody said it would be awesome if we could to a taco festival,” Alderson said. “I thought ‘we can do that. We can make that happen.’’’
Alderson said the village is considering changing things up in with the Food Fight theme.
“The thought is that each year, we will feature a different cuisine,” she said. “Next year might be pizza. We could change it up each year and keep it fresh.”
Alyssa Robles, however, wouldn’t mind seeing the taco theme return.
I think they should stick to tacos,” she said. “Everybody loves a good taco.”
Jeff Vorva is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.
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