Ten Different Ways to Experience the 2018 Agave Heritage Festival

If you think that tequila is the only way to indulge in agave, think again––this culturally significant desert plant is used to make a variety of spirits and food; processed to make clothing and art; and studied to learn about the history of Baja Arizona. This year, to celebrate the tenth annual Agave Heritage Festival, Hotel Congress is partnering with mixologists, award-winning chefs, bakers, farmers, anthropologists, community gardens, and artists to host 27 agave-inspired events that will inspire everyone to learn more about this versatile native plant. With almost 30 events geared toward people of all ages, interests, and backgrounds, the 2018 Agave Heritage Festival truly has something for everyone. Here are ten different ways to experience agave at this year’s Agave Heritage Festival. Check out the Agave Heritage Festival website to learn about the other 17 events!

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Learn

1. Hohokam Agave Tour (April 27, 8-11 a.m.) - $30

Strap on your boots and head out the field with Paul Fish and Suzanne Fish, Emeritus Professors of Anthropology and Curators of Archaeology at the Arizona State Museum, as they guide you through an ancient Hohokam agave field complex on the slopes of the Tortolita Mountains north of Tucson. Your guides, who have been studying agave cultivation in this region for over 40 years, will help you connect to the history of the land as they teach you about the significance of agave to the Hohokam. 

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2. Opening of the Agave Roasting Pit (April 28, 5-8 p.m.) - $15-45

Learn about the traditional preparation of agave as you celebrate the opening of the agave roasting pit at Mission Garden. Jesus Garcia, of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, will fire up the earth oven to demonstrate the ancestral practice of agave roasting as Paul Fish and Suzanne Fish, Emeritus Professors of Anthropology and Curators of Archaeology at the Arizona State Museum, explain the plant’s cultural significance. Then, learn how to cook agave at home with a demonstration by native foods cookbook author Carolyn Niethammer, all while tasting freshly roasted agave and participating in an agave spirit tasting led by EXO Roast Co.’s Doug Smith. It’s sure to be a night of learning, tasting, and celebration.

Look

3. Art Exhibit Diane Bombshelter (April 27, 6-8 p.m.) - Free

Local artist Diane Bombshelter is using the opening day of the Agave Heritage Festival as an opportunity to unveil her collection of agave-inspired paintings, all done on black velvet. Join the artist and your fellow community members to revel in this place-based artwork as you snack on appetizers made with southwest heritage ingredients. You might even add a new piece of artwork to your collection. 

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4. Agave Heritage Festival Documentary Screening (May 1, 5:30-9:30 p.m.) - Free

Head to The Loft Cinema for a fascinating night of documentaries and expert panels. Grab some popcorn and a local beer before sitting down to watch two documentaries, Agave is Life and Mesoamerican Diet with a pre-screening Agave and Wild Foods Exhibit, before listening to a panel discussion about “how the pre-colonial Mesoamerican Diet (maize, beans, squash, chile peppers, tomatoes, agaves) compares to the indigenous Sonoran Desert diet, and how it influenced the diet, food traditions, cultural history, and cuisine of the Sonoran Desert after it began to spread to this region some 4,000 years ago.”

Interact

5. Agave Garden Planting (April 29, 8-11 a.m.) - $25

Dig in to the history of agave on Tumomoc Hill with Ben Wilder. This rewarding opportunity will give you the chance to help with the ceremonial planting of agave at one of the city’s most culturally significant locations. And, because gardening is hard work, you’ll be rewarded with snacks and refreshments. 

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6. Family Friendly Cinco De Mayo (May 5, 12-4 p.m.) - Free

This free event, hosted at Tohono Chul, is the perfect way to get the whole family excited about agave. Bring the kids and some sunscreen and get ready for a fun-filled day. Kids will have a great time in the kid zone, where they can join in on a game of agave rope tug of war, hands-on crafts, and whimsical face painting. Adults will be happy to indulge in authentic Mexican food pairings that incorporate wild foods from the Sonoran Desert, tequila tastings, agave roasting seminars, documentary screenings, art installations, a pop-up farmers market, and live traditional music of the southwest.

Drink

7. Bacanora: Spirit of the Sonoran Desert (April 30, 6-8 p.m.) - $20

Part educational, part delicious, this event is the perfect introduction to Bacanora––the borderlands’ signature mezcal––and other agave distillates that are lesser know in the United States. Learn about the history, production, and sustainability of Sonoran mezcal and enjoy tastings along the way. 

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8. MEZCrawl (May 3, 7-10 p.m.) - $35

Remember that one beer crawl you did in college? This is way better. Dive headfirst into the world of mezcal as you taste specially crafted mezcal cocktails all night long. Start at Borderlands Brewing before making your way to El Charro, Exo Bar, Crooked Tooth Brewing Co., Tough Luck Club, Good Oak Bar, Downtown Kitchen & Cocktails, Elvira's, and Penca, and taste your way through downtown Tucson.

Eat + Drink

9. Pulque & Barrio Bread (May 2, 6-7 p.m.) - $40

If you’ve eaten the bread from Barrio Bread, you know that it goes with just about anything. Pulque, the milky viscous liquid made from the fermentation of sap from the agave plant, is no exception. Barrio Bread owner Don Guerra is teaming up with Sidecar  to pair his crusty artisan bread––made with local heritage grains––with pulque cocktails for a duo that won’t soon be forgotten. 

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10. Agave Heritage Dinner (May 4, 6-9 p.m.) - $95

What happens when talented farm-to-table chefs from the only two UNESCO Cities of Gastronomy in the United States come together to cook a meal? An incredible night of innovative collaboration, local ingredients, and very satisfied bellies. Elizabeth Johnson, founder of San Antonio’s Pharm Table, is traveling from Texas to collaborate with Maynards Market & Kitchen Executive Chef Brian Smith and Cup Cafe Executive Chef Joe Decker for an unforgettable multi-course dinner. Agave has never tasted so good.

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