SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS RADIO) – Think of it as Fyre Fest with tacos.
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An event billed as the Santa Rosa Taco Festival left a bad taste in most attendees' mouths last weekend, with many of the hundreds who showed up feeling they were scammed.
Though Sonoma County is typically known as a culinary destination, those attending the Santa Rosa Taco Festival on Saturday thought it was more of a nightmare.
Patrons, who paid between $30 a ticket to upwards of $100 for VIP passes, traveled from as far as Oakland and San Jose for a day of tequila tastings, salsa dancing, performances, and, of course, plenty of tacos — but it didn’t quite turn out the way.
"Everybody loves tacos, so the response in the beginning was really huge," Gloria Rubio, one of the many event vendors and a former taco blog author, told KCBS Radio.
However, the red flags went up quickly. Organizers were vague in communicating event details, the festival was postponed from its original November date without any reason given and many customers had difficulty receiving refunds.
Attendees were greeted with a handful of food trucks in a parking lot, most of which offered foods other than tacos. Rubio arrived to find a fenced in corral with no tables or shade to sit in. She said all attendees were greeted with was a "bare, six foot folding table with a sign that said 'beer and taco tokens.' That's it."
Video credit: Gloria Rubio
Each person received two tokens to redeem for tacos, but they were only applicable one food truck, which created an hour-long line for the otherwise $2 apiece street tacos.
"It's comical now, but at the time, the look of disappointment on a huge crowd of people is so disheartening," Rubio said.
The beer garden, of sorts, was a chain link fence around a patch of grass, with no chairs and no shade where people could drink.
"I mean it was 90 degrees that day and people were standing in this gated hot area drinking beer," Rubio said. "It looked miserable."
"When the event actually happened it looked horrifying," she continued.
She added that with no identifiable staff on site, the hired security became pseudo staff. "I don't think that this was their job whatsoever but they were the ones giving out tokens for beers and tacos," Rubio said.
There have also been reports of similar suspicious taco events across the U.S., as outlined in a Reddit thread filled with dissatisfied customers.
Organizers did not respond to KCBS Radio's request for comment.