The summer of grifting continues with arTacoFest, which appears to be hugely bogus

By Mike Pomranz
June 07, 2018
istetiana/Getty Images

As America’s foodie obsession continues unabated, new food festivals seem to come out of the woodwork all the time. Most of these events turn out perfectly fine. (I assume. As much as I would like to, I can’t attend all of them.) But at the same time, the problem with new festivals is that, as a first time event, they can be very hard to vet. As a result, these kinds of fests are perfect for unsavory promoters: a chance to sell a lot of tickets, sometimes at serious prices, to patrons who have trouble knowing any better. We’ve the New York Attorney General investigate after an extremely disappointing pizza festival in Brooklyn and a cheese festival in England that was so out of control people were comparing it to the doomed Fyre Festival (which, by the way, is another example of a shady fest).

If you’re wondering what other cuisines can be corrupted in festival form, news has broken about a “Taco Fest” supposedly slated for this Saturday in Chicago that is reportedly either one of the most poorly prepared food festivals ever or, more likely, completely fake.

In an article posted to its website yesterday morning, the Chicago Tribune asked in the headline, “Is Taco Fest Chicago fake? Event scheduled this weekend lists no address, has no city approval.” When you can fit that compelling of an argument into the title alone, you know this food fest is in trouble. Another red flag: Just days before the event, no vendors had been announced either on the event’s Facebook page (which has since been removed) or the website of the group supposedly organizing the event: Fanoomies.

And yet, that aforementioned Facebook page previously suggested that over 1,000 people had already signed up for the event where ticket prices ranged from $20 to $80. If you’re thinking, well, buyer beware, the Tribune talked to one ticket purchaser who exposed the depth of what now appears to be a total scam. “The website was pretty vague… So I emailed a bunch of questions, like how many tacos we could eat and what kind of beverages were available,” Jermaine Pigee told the paper. He says someone quickly responded to most of his questions, so he bought three tickets at $25 a pop. That’s when the email responses stopped coming. “They answered all the questions up until I bought the tickets.”

As the Tribune continued to dig, the house of cards appeared to get shakier. On a practical level, Taco Fest promised free parking on site, which, despite not having a specific location, isn’t likely almost anywhere near “Randolph Street Chicago” where the event was supposedly taking place. The event also had a strange dress code for summer in Chicago: “please, no shorts or sunglasses.” Making matters even worse, just one week ago, the Sacramento Bee posted an article about Sushi Fest—an event scheduled for Sacramento that also appears to be fake. The organizers: Fanoomies.

Since the Tribune’s investigation, Shopify, the company that Fanoomies was selling tickets through, has removed the event from its website. But people who paid for tickets could potentially face a long road to getting their money back.

Meanwhile, though clearly plenty of wonderful food festivals are out there, the moral is that when buying food fest tickets, make sure to do a bit of digging inside of the taco shell to make sure all the ingredients are there.