Annual Taste of Tucson canceled

Group cites lack of sponsors, name confusion as problems in making the festival profitable
2013-07-31T00:00:00Z Annual Taste of Tucson canceledCathalena E. Burch Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 31, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Tucson Originals has canceled the 2013 Taste of Tucson, the opening event of what many people still refer to as the annual Tucson Culinary Festival.

But the annual World Margarita Championship that was founded as part of the festival eight years ago is still on for Oct. 25, said Tucson Originals Executive Director Colette Landeen.

Landeen said the Originals had trouble getting enough sponsors for the Taste - a two-pronged event planned for early October that paired appetizers from Tucson restaurants with premium and regional wines and beers. Part of the problem was that the event was being marketed under Taste of Tucson and not as the culinary festival. Landeen said the Originals started moving away from calling the event a festival last year because "it was not really a festival anymore. It had not really been a festival for several years."

"People will still call it the festival, but we didn't think that was an accurate term," Landeen said.

When the festival started in 2002, it was a multiday event - from four to six days - which proved to be a hardship on the participating Originals member restaurants, Landeen said.

"It's not really something that we make money on," said Originals executive board member and longtime Tucson restaurateur Suzanne Elefante. "You reach a point that you can no longer do things that don't make you money."

Elefante said the Originals executive board voted Monday night to cancel the Taste because they could not line up enough sponsors to support the event at the level of past years.

"Our philosophy as restaurateurs is if we can't do things the right way, we're not going to do it," said Elefante, who has owned Mama Louisa's Italian Restaurant on South Craycroft Road for 40 of its 57 years.

Landeen said she thinks part of the problem in getting sponsors boiled down to semantics: Folks thought Taste of Tucson was a new event.

"In the eyes of most people, it's a new event, even though it wasn't," Landeen said, adding that the Originals hope to resurrect the Taste of Tucson next year.

Last year the Taste was held at Casino del Sol resort and more than 1,000 people attended.

If you go

Tickets are on sale now for $50 for the eighth annual World Margarita Championship, from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 25 at Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave. Get them at tucsonculinaryfestival.com It's $60 at the door.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@azstarnet.com or 573-4642.

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