‘Twas the week of Taco Truck Throwdown 7 and all down the street, places were prepared for fans to grab tacos and eat. Plans were put together with great care in hopes that hungry people would soon be there. The Fresno Grizzlies (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) are ready to welcome thousands of hungry fans this weekend as part of Taco Truck Throwdown 7.
Beginning on Friday, July 28, this year’s edition will be the first time the event has been expanded to two days with around 40 taco trucks. It will also include a Major League Eating World Taco Eating Championship that features nine-time Nathan’s Hot Dog Easting Contest champion Joey Chestnut, live music, and of course baseball.
Grizzlies media relations coordinator Paul Braverman said the event has continued to grow each year ever since its inception. “Our director of marketing Sam Hansen and Mike Oz, a baseball writer from Yahoo that used to work in the Fresno area, came up with the idea,” Braverman said. “They are both Central California guys and had the idea that every person has their favorite tacos and/or taco trucks in their area of town. Why not make a competition of it?”
Tacos are a big part of Fresno culture and each year the event has grown. “It’s usually our best-attended game of the year. We have fans that aren’t as interested in the game but the seating bowl is always filled and we usually have an over-capacity crowd for the event.”
In fact, Taco Throwdowns have set Fresno attendance records. “The largest two events in stadium history have both been taco throwdowns. Two years ago, our taco throwdown drew the biggest crowd ever,” Braverman said. “Fourth of July this season was our third-largest crowd. We might not set a record this year but are expecting over 10,000 people at the event and will still have the ability to announce a top ten crowd.”
The first day of the festival will be on a game day while the second day will take place with the team on the road. Braverman said the new format will help things run more smoothly.
“We needed a larger footprint outside of a game day so moving it to two days was a natural fit,” Braverman said. “And what’s great about this year’s event is fans will actually have time to sample all of the food. We have a Judges Choice award and an Audience Choice award. Fans previously crammed taco tasting into four hours during the game. People would get food-drunk trying to eat all of them. Now they’ll have time between the two days to take their time and enjoy tasting everything.”
One of the headline events for day two of the festival will be the Major League Eating World Taco Eating Championship.
“We approached Major League Eating about hosting the taco eating challenge. Major League Eating has a lull after the Nathan’s hot dog eating competition on July Fourth so the competitive eaters can come to the event.”
As the event evolves, Fresno will look for more ways to capitalize on its popularity. “Last year, the big step was the taco jerseys. This year, we expanded and developed new menu items like our Taco Tots,” Braverman said. “We have a new concession stand called Oppo Taco down the right field side of the stadium which focuses on tacos, beer, and margaritas.”
With the success of the taco brand, Fresno has been asked many times if they would consider becoming the Tacos full-time. “The answer is no. There is a lot of equity in the Grizzlies brand and merchandise. If we were the Tacos full-time, the Tacos would lose its cache and lose its uniqueness.”
So as Fresno prepares for another huge event, they are proud of not only the hungry fans they get to feed but starting a minor league trend. “The Fresno Tacos have spawned a lot of imitators and many teams have come out with their own themed food nights and jerseys to represent their communities. We always have fun seeing what teams come up with,” Braverman said. “It’s cool to see and it’s cool to have been part of the organization that set the industry standard.”
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