MOLINE, Ill. (KWQC) – Hundreds were left upset after a Nashville-based company hosted a Mexican food and drink festival Saturday at Vibrant Arena at the Mark.
The ‘Quad Cities Taco and Margarita Festival’ put on by United Festival Productions, advertised tacos, margaritas, a live DJ, live professional wrestling and local retail vendors.
Dozens of ticket holders and some vendors spoke out about the event on social media. Many claim they were met with overpriced concession stand food sold by the venue.
Some expected local QC vendors, like Cocina Verde to be selling the promised food.
Owners Emmanuel and Karen Garcia started the vegan Mexican food truck in June. As a new business, they were excited to get exposure from a big food festival.
However, after spending Friday prepping for the event, they woke up to a disappointing text Saturday morning.
“[It said] Vibrant was going to provide food and drinks [and] that they will no longer need food trucks or anybody there for to serve food and drinks,” Emmanuel Garcia said. “Pretty much just said ‘sorry,’ and that’s it.”
One attendee, Kayley Hamilton heard rumors about vendors being turned away but decided to give the festival a chance regardless. She was hoping to support local Latino-owned businesses.
“[UFP] should be humiliated by that honestly, that they would label an event like ‘Quad Cities Taco and Margarita Festival,’ and their local vendor is the TaxSlayer Center,” Hamilton said. “They did not support any local businesses in that transaction.”
According to UFP Vendor Coordinator, Charles Sneed, the company never claimed to have local tacos and about 40 local retail vendors were at the event selling baked goods and other products.
He said Cocina Verde was the only vendor turned away and argued the venue is a local vendor
“You’ll see that it was local. It was all through the TaxSlayer Center,” Sneed said. “What the TaxSlayer Center did, they came up with great taco choices.”
Some ticket holders said the $5 tacos and $8 margaritas weren’t fairly priced. One ticket costs anywhere from $15 to $50, depending on the type of admission.
Another attendee, Ashley Gatheright, bought tickets for her boyfriend and his mom. She said they walked in and eventually took their business elsewhere.
“I honestly felt like I was on the butt end of a scam or a joke,” Gatherright said. “I kept apologizing. I felt terrible. It was my idea, then to show up, and I don’t know what the tickets exactly were for. We didn’t expect it to be all free, but we expected a lot of booths.”
The Garcias were able to find an alternate venue and eventually sold out of food that night, but they said they’ll have to do a bit more research next time around.
“It’s definitely disappointing,” Karen Garcia said. “Just because you think you hear someone big, like, vibrant, and you’re just like, oh, this is legit … this has to be right.”
Executive Director of Vibrant Arena at the Mark, Scott Mullen, provided a statement to TV6 News in which he explained the venue’s vetting process for events they book.
Mullen did not confirm if the event would be returning for 2023.
United Festival Productions is set to hold similar events in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Albany, New York in the upcoming weeks.
The company’s CEO Adam Dobres did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
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