When founding Agave Festival Marfa in 2017, Tim Johnson’s vision was to host a moveable feast serving high-quality liquors with a heaping side of history, art, and culture. “We are bringing aspects of our regional history into consciousness again,” says Johnson, who’s also the owner of Marfa’s community bookstore and literary incubator, Marfa Book Co. Johnson’s vision realized, an estimated 500 people will gather June 1-9 to celebrate the many uses and rich history of agave tequilana.

For more information about Agave Festival Marfa visit agavemarfa.com.

Now in its third year, the mostly free event features panel discussions, tequila tastings, art exhibits, live music, and reservation-only pairing dinners—all celebrating the plant that has contributed so much to the region’s culture.

Food and drink make up the primary focus of the festival. Tequila tastings of artisanal brands like GEM & BOLT mezcal, Desert Door sotol, and Casa Dragones tequila provide context on the differences between blanco, joven, reposado, añejo, extra añejo, and sotol. Renowned chefs like Gerardo Lugo and Stephan Pyles collaborate with distillers to create one-of-a-kind dining experiences. More informally, Marfa Burrito serves as a popular place for festival goers to gather for breakfast or lunch to discuss what they’ve learned.

But agave is more than meets the taste buds—the fest explores the plant’s cultural, environmental, spiritual, artistic, and historical significance.

Each year features a loose theme. As part of last year’s theme, migration, conservationist Rodrigo Medellin talked about Mexican long-nosed bats, which cover extensive ground from northern Mexico to the southern border of the United States in their role as agave pollinators.

Agave is more than meets the taste buds—the fest explores the plant’s cultural, environmental, spiritual, artistic, and historical significance.

Designer Christina Kim showed examples of handwoven textiles, created from agave fibers and cotton by people from the remote Colombian Arhuaco tribe. Her tales of Arhuaco history, customs, and traditions had attendees asking questions long after the presentation ended.

This year’s theme centers on art and poetry. The lineup includes actor Cheech Marin, chatting about his career and large Chicano art collection; and Pedro Jimenez, the founder of Mezonte, which bottles and distributes agave spirits, in discussion with Rodolfo Fernandez, one of the foremost historians of agave culture. Of course, there will also be multiple tequila tastings and $75-$100 reservation-only dinners inspired by agave.

Photo: Tim Johnson

Festival events will be spread across the tiny town; last year saw DJ sets at Bar Nadar Pool + Grill, art openings at Hotel Paisano and Hotel Saint George, musical acts at Saint George Hall, tastings and dinners at Convenience West and LaVenture, and presentations at Crowley Theater. “It’s like a party train,” says Eric Bieri, an Austin resident who attended his first Agave Fest last year. 

We’re bringing aspects of our regional history into consciousness again.”

Even with so much to do, Marfa invites visitors to slow down and chill out. Between events, guests can stroll around or sit at a handful of outdoor patios and cafés. Many stores and galleries have extended hours in anticipation of the extra foot traffic.

Whether you’ve come for the tastings, the education, or to enjoy Marfa’s quirks and charms, Agave Fest is sure to leave you buzzing

From the June 2019 issue

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