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Margarita Festival slams into Mammoth summer scene

August 17, 2012

Two Milagro representatives serve tequila at the Margarita Festival last weekend at the Village. Photo/Carolina Agüero

As first-time events go, last weekend’s Mammoth Margarita Festival entered the summer festival scene with modest expectations.

But as the event worked its way through the weekend at the Village, it quickly became clear that organizer Mark Deeds and his crew had a winner on their hands.
 
“We were pleasantly surprised,” understated Deeds a few days after the event. “Actually, we’re thrilled.”
 
As of mid-week, Deeds said the turnstile count was somewhere around 2,000 individuals, tasting tequila concoctions and enjoying Latin-inspired live music.
 
By the feel of it, the festival had all the earmarks of a yearlong preparation. 
 
But it wasn’t.
 
Having just eight weeks and a fistful of Measure U tax support, Deeds and his cohorts, Russ Squier and Michael Ladesma (proprietors of Gomez’s and tequila aficionados) brought in 15 distilleries, four live bands and a host of goodwill.
 
It was, Deeds conceded, a somewhat risky proposition—either a Tequila Sunrise or a Tequila Sunset, one way or the other.
 
For a town whose alcohol consumption at summer festivals is mostly about wine and beer, venturing forth into a high-proof celebration gave a few of them—and some town officials—keeping a close eye on crowd behavior.
 
“We asked people to ‘sip, not slam,’” Deeds said, acknowledging that some tequila drinkers have taken only the “slam” route of the Mexican liquid, which is most often made at a 38–40 percent alcohol content (76–80 proof), but can be produced between 35–55 percent alcohol content (70–110 proof).
 
There were, as usual, more slammers than Mammoth Police would have preferred, said Police Chief Dan Watson, but all in all he said the festival followed the norm.
 
Usually, he said, at an event like this and Bluesapalooza, “some people take the festival with them to the bars, and that’s usually where they run into trouble.”
 
But, he said, there were no arrests, and those who were seriously out of whack were put together with friends or family to get them home.
 
As for the festival itself, Deeds said there were more visitors than locals, based on pre-festival sales information taken online. Mammoth Tourism Director John Urdi estimated a 50-50 split.
 
For a first-time event, those are good numbers. Deeds and his crew already are daydreaming about next season, possibly offering seminars in Margarita mixology, and so on.
 
First, though, he said he and his cohorts are de-briefing like crazy.
 
“We are encouraged at the amount of unsolicited positive feedback received thus far but there is still much post-event work to be done,” Deeds said in an email follow-up to an earlier interview.
 
“The event production team is just beginning to review the many surveys and other forms of post event feedback.”
 
This includes a series of post event meetings with the town staff, ESTA (transit), tourism, police, fire, private security, host venue, participating vendors, attendees, volunteers, sponsors, neighbors and other stakeholders. 
 
“We are committed to addressing all feedback and have already begun compiling a long ‘lessons-learned’ list on how make the event even better next year,” Deeds said.
 
Deeds said he’d welcome all feedback and comments at info@mammothmargaritafestival.com.
 
In the meantime, if you see Deeds around town this week, don’t be surprised at the Cheshire Cat grin. At least a couple of thousand people would say he deserves to wear it.

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