French fries are an important food group. They are beloved, crisp creatures that fill taste buds with a salty, starchy crispness. People dig and beg for more. Their best friend is a series of sauces, whether that be ketchup, mayonnaise or ranch, create possibly the greatest snack or entreé, if people prefer.
When festival organizer David Tyda was faced to choose his next festival topic, the answer was simple: a French fry festival. Why? “I love French fries.”
Over the years, Tyda and his business partner Lisa Duffield created multiple food festivals, including those dedicated to tacos, pizza and donuts. They call him the head cheese or el guapo, but Tyda prefers “festival organizer” and “French fry lover.”
FRIED Festival come to Hance Park in Phoenix from 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday, April 20.
“There are two reasons why I wanted to do a French fry festival. No. 1 4/20 is on a Saturday this year and I wanted to focus on the world’s greatest munchie. It’s just a subtle wink and nod toward the date. No. 2: I just really love fries and a lot of people do.”
Tyda emphasizes fries are no longer a side dish, but an entrée.
During his time deciding to make this festival, Tyda had “A-ha moments.”
“The first a-ha moment, I was at another culinary festival and Frite St. had partnered with Chula Seafood and did a clam chowder French fry and they were incredible. It sealed the deal for me, it shows that fries are more than good with ketchup.
The second A-ha moment happened the very next day. I saw these four girls having lunch and three of them got salads and one of them just got a plate of fries. I could see the looks of jealousy on the girls’ faces, the ones who got salads, and they kept reaching over to take their friend’s fries. They weren’t even asking for them.”
No one ever asks to take a fry, and no one just takes one fry from their friend’s plate. “When your stealing fries, you don’t gingerly take one. You ride that line between taking an acceptable few and an entire handful.”
Tyda wants to celebrate all of the types of fries and make sure they are all represented at his festival. This year, the focus is on toppings. Because chefs are becoming more experimental with their French fry making skills, Tyda wants to celebrate all of the creative ways fries can be consumed.
Highlighted caterer American Poutine Company share its cheese curds and brown gravy. Tyda knows it sounds gross, but he says everyone changes their mind when they try them.
Bolognese fries from Merkin Pizza Wagon aren’t bad, either. They are fries served in a Chinese takeout box and are topped with Bolognese sauce, parmesan cheese and basil.
The festival will boast everything from waffle fries, straight fries, shoestring fries, tater tots (yes, they are a French fry) and the topping-filled fries. Although Tyda regrets to inform that crinkle cut fries are not a part of the team this year, he hopes to continue growing the French fry representation for the years to come.
There will be 12 to 15 stands and food trucks that accept cash and card. Gracie’s Tax Bar will provide alcoholic beverages and will only take cash. Attendees will need to purchase a drink ticket for $6.
Nine local artists will perform at the festival—Fairy Bones, decker, Please, Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold, Gus D. Wynns and The Breakers, Weird Radicals, Maintenance, Reverse Cowboy and Stoneypie.
“All of the bands are front and center. It’s a culinary festival at its heart, but we really amped up who we booked. We wanted to focus more on a cohesive band lineup with hot, local indie rock, blue-grassy americano sound. There are a lot of fun groups and it should be a blast.”
His advice for attending the festival: wear a lot of sunscreen and wear stretchy pants. After all, he doesn’t want foodies to feel restricted.
Fries are truly a “communal food” according to Tyda, and he hopes to bring the community together, one handful of French fries at a time.
FRIED Festival, Hance Park, 1202 N. Third Street, Phoenix, 480.442.9176, friedfestival.com, 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday, April 20, $15 online.