By Lauren Herber, Editor-in-Chief
Like most Thunderbirds, I love attending cultural festivals, trying new foods, and experiencing international traditions. Luckily, I’ve lived in several cities the past of couple of years that have allowed me to engage in these types of activities. I moved to Phoenix last August from Boston, and when I first got here, I balked at the lack of culture and diversity in Phoenix. “Everything here is new,” I lamented, arguing that newness equates to lack of history and culture. But as I quickly learned, if you seek culture in Phoenix, you will find it.
Of course, we have an amazing microcosm of different cultures and ethnicities right here on campus. But sometimes it’s fun to leave the Pub for a bit and explore the surrounding city (referring to Phoenix, not Glendale). With a population of 1.5 million, Phoenix is the 6th largest city in the United States (just behind Philadelphia) and has plenty to offer in terms of culture and diversity.
For example, last year I went to a Día de los Muertos festival in central Phoenix (which will be celebrated this year as well on October 23). The festival was packed with traditional foods, dances, costumes, and art and was a wonderful experience overall. I also attended an Oktoberfest festival in Tempe last fall. While not quite like the original in Munich, which I was lucky enough to have attended in 2013, the Arizona event did pay homage to some of the traditional foods, brews, and traditions of the German festival.
This past weekend I took part in another fantastic annual Phoenix festival: the Chile Pepper Festival on Roosevelt Row. If you’ve ever been to a Phoenix First Friday, then you’ve been to Roosevelt Row and know that it’s a hub for art and culture here in Phoenix, perfect for a food and culture festival. Roosevelt’s gorgeous murals and local restaurants formed the backdrop for the festival’s events, which included onsite chile roasting, live music, traditional and salsa dancing, talent shows, cooking demos, and more. The festival, which was organized by Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation, featured food, art, and more from your favorite local Phoenix businesses such as Lawn Gnome Publishing, Ocotillo, Paz Cantina, Short Leash Hotdogs, Carly’s, Welcome Diner, and the Coronado. Cumbia Fenix and Mariachi Aguila provided live music and dance performances while festival goers sampled a myriad of chile-containing foods, such as chicken tinga tacos, fresh pozole, coconut-chile donuts, chocolate-covered Habanero peppers, spicy pineapple maragaritas, authentic Mexican popsicles, Mexican street corn, chile pepper-infused olive oil, and much more. All proceeds went the Growhouse Community Garden, which allows teens and community members to learn about the importance of healthy living and how to grow their own food while building the community.
All in all, the Chile Pepper Festival was a wonderful opportunity to experience new cultures, traditions, and foods while supporting the local Phoenix community. This is an event that you won’t want to miss in the future.
Hungry yet? Here are some upcoming food/cultures festivals in Phoenix that are sure to please:
Oktoberfest at Tempe Town Lake (October 7-9)
Greater Phoenix Greek Festival (October 7-9)
Puerto Rican Festival of Arizona (October 8)
Chandler Indian Art Market (October 8-9)
Otsukimi Moonviewing Festival (October 14-15)
Arizona Taco Festival (October 15-16)
Desert Gathering Jewish Music Fest (November 6)
Arizona Pupusas Festival (November 13)
Experience Scandinavia (December 3-4)