TUCSON, ARIZ. (Jan. 18, 2024) – The 16th annual Agave Heritage Festival on April 18-21, 2024, creatively celebrates the plant’s versatility and sustainability in Tucson, in the heart of the Southwest.
Since its start in 2008 as an introduction to agave spirits, the festival has evolved into a multi-layered adventure that offers an in-depth exploration of everything from agave education and sustainability and its place in culinary and spirits culture, to its ever-growing effect on economy and agriculture. The use of agave products as climate-smart commodities can enhance livelihoods and ecosystems, helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Agave Heritage Festival celebrates the agave, known as the Century Plant, and acknowledges Tucson's rich cultural history and the traditions that unite the people of the Southwest and the borderlands. Across the city’s landscape, the agave is perhaps one of the most recognized plants, with the metro Tucson area harboring a minimum of 125 agave species, more than half of all the agaves described in the world. It is considered to be equal parts medicine, nutrition, horticulture, and spirit. Agave cultivation in the Tucson basin dates to the year 950 C.E. Currently, there are 20 species of wild agave cultivated in Southern Arizona, which have been used for generations for mezcal distillation.
This year’s Agave Heritage Festival will take place at various downtown locations and throughout Tucson. Reflecting the ongoing growth of the agave industry, a variety of additional performances and educational experiences will be offered throughout the festival.
New for this year are Agave Heritage Festival Passport Packages that include tickets to select dinners, entertainment and tasting events. Passports will be in limited supply and only be available for purchase from January 22 - February 14. Pricing starts at $295.
"The Agave Heritage Festival is very much a living, breathing event. Because of this, we get to see it evolve and grow every year, and 2024 is no exception,” said Francisco Terrazas, Programming and Partnership Director of the Agave Heritage Festival.“Through a lot of hard work on the part of the entire team, the festival continues to be a celebration of not just the agave plant, but the entire borderlands region. Since the agave plant is so important to so many stakeholders on both sides of the border, we hear from spirits producers to ecologists, artists, conservationists, and more. And because what we do here is so unique, it continues to draw attention and people from all corners of the world.”
Programming Preview Highlights:
Two unique musical experiences will kick off the festival at a concert event on Friday, April 19: Flor de Toloache and Som do Sisal Youth Brazilian Orchestra.
- Flor de Toloache is a Latin Grammy award-winning all-female mariachi band, based in New York City, who first began playing in the subway where they were noticed by numerous media outlets including The New York Times. They released their first album in 2014, and in 2017, won a Latin Grammy for "Best Ranchero/Mariachi Album" for their second studio album Las Caras Lindas.
- Since 2012, the Som do Sisal Youth Brazilian Orchestra has been using sisal fiber (a member of the agave family) production waste to create musical instruments and promote music education for young people. Their performances combine the rich musical traditions of Brazil with the imagery of agave cultivation.
In advance of the Festival, the University of Arizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, as part of its Community Classroom Program, will feature a Masterclass Series related to Agave and heritage, available online and in-person from February 9 - April 16. University experts will cover topics such as Food Writing, the Cultural History of Agave and Food Sovereignty. This is the perfect way to dive into all things Agave and explore topics related to the Festival.
For those looking to expand and test their expertise, the Agave Spirits Institute returns for the second year with their accredited educational series offering both the Introduction to Agave class on Saturday, April 20, and for the first time in the U.S., Level I Mezcal Specialist certification on Friday, April 19 - Saturday, April 20. Open to both consumers and industry professionals, the intro class fee is $210, and the Level 1 course is $660.
An expanded Mujer Agave Women’s Collective Expo and Tradeshow will take place on Friday, April 19. Mujer Agave is a collective of women in the agave spirits industry where unity, legacy and joy are taught through diverse conferences and experiences. It’s geared toward empowering and connecting female stakeholders in the agave industry across disciplines. Based on the popularity of the 2023 event, it has expanded to a daylong event with networking opportunities and a tasting of women-produced or owned brands. Mujer Agave was founded by a Oaxaca-based group including Sandra Ortíz Brena of the legendary bar In Sítu and Mezcasiarca brand, Silvia Philion, owner of mezcal bar Mezcaloteca and a brand of the same name, and Graciela Angeles Carreño who owns and operates the well-known mezcal brand Real Minero.
About the Agave Heritage Festival
Now in its 16th year, the Agave Heritage Festival’s mission is to explore and celebrate the cultural, sustainable, and commercial significance of the agave across borders through a series of curated events and educational seminars. Founded in 2008, the Tucson-based Agave Heritage Foundation has grown to include the ever-expanding exploration and uses of the Agave plant in its many forms. The festival has since become a city-wide destination event spotlighting the southwest region through the lens of the agave plant. The Agave Heritage Festival celebrates the unique importance and sustainability of the agave plant and borderlands culture with seminars, tasting events and world-class culinary events. For the complete schedule of events and to purchase tickets, visit agaveheritagefestival.com. Follow on Instagram @agaveheritagefestival and post about the event using the hashtag #agaveheritagefestival.