by Kristen Williams
The inaugural CasaBlanca BBQ Fest was held Sept. 8-10 at the CasaBlanca Events Center and was well received by spectators and vendors alike. According to Christian Adderson of Mesquite Gaming, an estimated 2,000-2,500 came to enjoy the festivities. Mesquite Gaming has held a similar event for the last eight years, the difference being that the previous events were sanctioned competitions for the barbecue vendors. This year, they decided to change the format to a festival, to provide a more interactive experience – and more food – for the attendees.
Adderson attended the “Best in the West” barbecue festival in Reno, a hugely successful annual event held over Labor Day weekend, and patterned CasaBlanca’s BBQ Fest after it. Additionally, holding this event just a week later allowed him to attract some of the best, award-winning vendors to Mesquite in their travels. Indeed, the lines at the vendor booths were long, but worth the wait.
Bob and Margie Merrill, snowbirds from Huntsville, Utah, haven’t migrated back for the season yet, but were happy to be in town for this festival. Bob called it a “really great event” and said the ribs he got at the Texas Outlaw BBQ booth were the best he’d ever had. The couple raved about the sauce, and they were happy to walk away with a jar of their own to take home. They said they always come to the car show and love all the events Mesquite Gaming puts on and remarked how great they were for the community.
The marketing efforts Adderson made in Las Vegas attracted a couple who drove up to check out the festival and they were glad they did, stating they’d never been to Mesquite and they’d definitely be back.
During the days, the CasaBlanca Events Center (the huge tent and parking lot area) was bustling with the food vendors, carnival-style vendors for funnel cakes and shaved ice, and fun activities indoors. Children participated in watermelon eating and pie eating contests, led by DJ Jimmy Z, while people watched and ate their barbecue.
Football fans didn’t have to miss their games as they were on in the tent as well. DJ Jimmy Z kept the music going while attendees also enjoyed the beer garden, beanbag toss games, and even a big Jenga game. A featured competition pitted the Mesquite PD and Mesquite Fire Department against each other in a juicy watermelon eating contest.
In the CasaBlanca showroom, there was more entertainment going on. The public enjoyed a free magician variety act by Seth Grabel, of America’s Got Talent fame, and in the evenings, there were performances by Bob Seger and ZZ Top tribute bands. Both bands perform in the showroom periodically and Adderson brought them to the Festival because they “fit in well” with this event.
Adderson says they’ll continue this formula annually, bringing in vendors the weekend after Labor Day. He said the vendors are excited to come back again next year and as the crowd grows, so will the festival.