The VIVA Tequila Festival will give attendees a true education about the culture and foods surrounding tequila.
By Jennifer Morrell
More than just an ingredient in your typical margarita, tequila has become a point of celebration and rich culture in metro Atlanta. Juan Bonilla’s VIVA Tequila Festival began initially as the VIVA Tequila Dinner Series, whereby different tequilas were paired with different menu courses created by local chefs. Affectionately known as “Mr. Tequila,” Bonilla focused on the tequila pairing and the educational aspect of the dinner, a two-hour event that pleased the palate while explaining the process of making each tequila, as well as the particulars of each dish.
While the dinner series drew a considerable attendance of 20 to 50 guests, a larger experience would better showcase the tequilas, fine cuisines, and historic culture of Mexico. Thus, Bonilla’s festival was born. The VIVA Tequila Festival began as a private event on a large property, with an attendance of about 200 people. This model worked for several years, so Bonilla decided to grow the festival in 2018, hosting about 2,500 guests.
The festival partners with the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance, which promotes awareness and action for ovarian cancer. “We are here to help those battling ovarian cancer, and we hope to educate women on the signs and symptoms of the disease,” Bonilla says. “We believe that we make a difference by helping them out in every way we can.”
In the past, the festival was held at Piedmont Park, but this year it will be at Truist Park. “This year, we are expecting over 5,000 people inside the tasting area and over 10,000 people in total foot traffic on September 25, starting at noon,” Bonilla says. “It’s a Saturday, so all our guests can enjoy and relax.”
“Cobb County is the perfect location as the new venue of the VIVA Tequila Festival, because of the community’s diversity, family values, and our partnership with the Atlanta Braves, who bond all of the metro Atlanta area and Georgia as the home baseball team,” Bonilla adds. “The VIVA Tequila Festival will remain in Cobb County and Truist Park — Home of the Braves — for many years to come.”
Bonilla says his family has been involved with tequila producers and agave growers for generations, and he has been an ambassador and advocate for tequila for the last 25 years. “Tequila has been planted, harvested, processed, cooked, distilled, and bottled by Mexican families for more than 500 years,” he says. “Many of those families remain in the industry from 20 generations back. Family values are an essential component in tequila.”
Bonilla says he is working hard to educate the public about the entire cultural aspect surrounding tequila, assuring people understand the costs involved. “Most people think of tequila as an inexpensive spirit, but in reality, it is more expensive to harvest and create than whiskey,” he says. “The plant takes five to 12 years to grow, and that’s in nature’s hands. Afterward, we produce the spirit and, later, we can rest it in barrels.”
The festival will consist of four areas. The Battery will be home to the Main Area, from Roxy Theater to the OMNI Hotel, where music and several performances will take place from noon until 5 p.m. Sponsors and vendors will be set up there as well.
Near the Chop House Gate, a valid ticket/wrist band will be required to gain access to the Food and Tequila Tasting and Pairing Area. Restaurants will be offering samples and tequila brands will be pairing those samples with the proper tequila. Shops will be available for ordering tequila as well.
The Chop House will be the VIP Area and will be converted into a tasting area with rare, unique agave-based spirits. This VIP Area will transform into a party zone after 6 p.m. for the VIVA La Noche Afterparty. The dance floor will be filled with energy and happiness, with plenty of snacks and drinks.
The main area of the festival will be set up for tequilas, restaurants, and vendors from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The VIP Lounge will be open to VIP guests from 12 to 6 p.m., and the afterparty area will be open to guests from 6 to 9 p.m.
During the festival, attendees will be able to try more than 40 brands of tequila, whether neat or in cocktails. Mexican, Southern, Asian, Latin-American, and Italian restaurants will serve food, showcasing their most popular dishes or presenting new creations for attendees.
In total, the festival employs about 500 people, including restaurant staff, brand ambassadors, vendors, VIVA Tequila Festival personnel, and auxiliary services, such as security and medical staff. “We proudly employ and invite as many local businesses as we can, and we are always on the lookout for more businesses to participate as sponsors or as contributors to the festival,” Bonilla says. “We usually do business with around 100 different vendors and providers.”
Mark Your Calendar!
These are the three, can’t-miss events happening during the VIVA Tequila Festival.
VIVA Tequila Festival. Takes place Sept. 25, 2021, at Truist Park. The event starts at 12 p.m., and tickets are available at vivatequilafestival.com.
- Guest registration begins at 11:30 a.m.
- Doors open to the public at 12 p.m.
- Restaurant and tequila pairings are from 12 to 5 p.m.
- Judging from 2 to 4 p.m.
- Entertainment will take place in the main area until 5 p.m.
- VIP Lounge is open from 12 to 6 p.m.
- Afterparty takes place from 6 to 9 p.m.
- Public areas in Truist Park and vendor area will be closed by 9:30 p.m.
VIVA Tequila Festival — Dinner Series. This occurs weekly across the metro Atlanta area from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Check dates at vivatequilafestival.com.
VIVA Tequila Festival — Mexico Experience. Visit four different destinations traveling as a tequila VIP to regions where tequila, mezcal, and other agave-based spirits are manufactured. Visit vivatequilafestival.com for more information.