A good margarita is a treat anytime of the year, but there's no question the cold and refreshing drink hits the spot in summer.
Guests at the inaugural Kern Margarita Championship on Aug. 24 will get to try local restaurants' and bars' takes on the tequila classic, all while supporting local cancer patients.
"It's a great cause, it's going to be a great atmosphere," said event co-chair DT Holder. "Everything we've seen has just been stellar."
The event will benefit the Josh Farler Foundation, which raises money to give to Kern County cancer patients to help with transportation, food and housing costs during treatment. The Foundation works with Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center Foundation and others to connect their funds with those in need.
The foundation is named for a young man with ties to Bakersfield, who lived in Nevada until his death from testicular cancer in 2005. His family would drive to Los Angeles for treatment, stopping to stay with family in Bakersfield on the way.
This is the first margarita championship for the Josh Farler Foundation, though it has held a regular poker tournament for the last 15 years. When the committee members were considering a summer event, they thought of margaritas. It didn't take long for them to get some validation that the idea was a good one.
"It was very early in the process and we went to lunch to talk about what we wanted to do," Holder said, explaining that this lunch took place at The BLVD and the topic quickly caught the attention of the restaurant's team. "All we said is 'We're doing a margarita championship,' and they said 'We're in. Can we bring food?'"
Joining The BLVD will be competitors Eureka!, Sonder, La Costa Mariscos, La Mina Cantina, Bocados Sushi Bar, Texas Roadhouse, The Old Fashioned Social Drinkery, The Library and El Chano. Each will bring its own version of the drink
"There will be no classic margaritas," Holder said with a laugh.
The Old Fashioned Social Drinkery, for example, will be offering Revenge's Revenge, which has lemon, ginger and honey, with mezcal overtones. The Library will have its watermelon fresca margarita, while Eureka has created its milk punch margarita, a concoction that takes three days to make.
"They give us the information but I'm sure they have some secret weapons," said co-chair Michelle Avila, who is also the director of the CBCC Foundation. "They are very competitive."
Most of the restaurants and bars will also be offering a food pairing to go with its margarita. The BLVD will offer bacon cream cheese wontons to pair with its maple bacon margarita, while La Costa will have its mango habanero margarita paired with shrimp ceviche.
The participating businesses will be competing for four awards: first or second place, as awarded by the competition's official judges; best food pairing, judged by Bakersfield Life's food critic Andrea Saavedra and her husband Berkay Unal; and people's choice, as decided by the guests. The trophies will be handblown margarita glasses.
The event will mostly be held indoors while guests try the margaritas, but once the sun goes down, they can head outside for live music from Mento Buru and margaritas from the Josh Farler Foundation (pineapple margarita) and Helping One Woman (chocolate margarita). There will also be a bar where guests can buy something else to drink, if they've had their share of margaritas.
There will also be a patient art exhibit from Lilly Oncology and a live art demonstration, with finished pieces available for auction at the end of the night.
Response to the event has been good not just among competitors but also possible attendees. Avila recalled a meeting she was in when one person asked her about the margarita championship.
"Literally, the whole room stopped talking," she said. "They turned toward me and said 'Margarita event?' That happens every single time I mention the margarita event."
Space for this event is limited, and the organizers expect it to sell out. But anyone who misses out on the chance to attend this year can keep an eye out for next year's championship, as Avila said it will definitely become an annual event.
"We've had so much success already," Avila said. "Hopefully with continued success, we'll be able to raise more for the patients."
The Josh Farler Foundation averages about $500 a person for cancer patients who need help with the costs associated with treatment that insurance doesn't cover. While the foundation's first event was a poker tournament to help Farler and his family, they decided to continue the tradition following his death the next year. It now raises between $30,000 and $35,000 a year.
With the Kern Margarita Championship, the organizers are hoping to add another $25,000 to that annual total.