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GALLERY: Pahrump treated to a tasty Taco Fest

The Pahrump Taco Fest made its return to the valley for the first time since 2019 and though the competition was a bit smaller than event organizer Deanna O’Donnell had aimed for, overall it was hailed as a big success.

“I had really hoped we would have more cooks than we did this year but we were contending with graduation and that made it tough,” O’Donnell told the Pahrump Valley Times afterward. “Although money-wise we did not do as well as we have done in the past, we did manage to raise about $2,800.”

It was this fundraising aspect that was at the heart of Pahrump Taco Fest, with the profits to be donated to a couple of local causes that O’Donnell is proud to support: the Pahrump Intertribal Social Powwow and the Pahrump Valley High and Rosemary Clarke Middle School cheerleaders.

Attendance was estimated at between 800 and 1,000 this year, with people milling in and out of the Calvada Eye all day last Saturday, June 1. Taco tastings were on sale and patrons eagerly partook of the seven different taco samplings on offer, which ranged from traditional ground beef to steak, shrimp and even salmon.

“We had six cooks with a total of seven separate taco entries in the competition,” O’Donnell detailed. “The Pahrump Valley Rotary Cub took home the top prize, which was so funny because the day before they had called and said they couldn’t compete because their cook hadn’t been able to get everything together. Well, I scrambled to find a turkey roaster for them to use and Gunny Arnst came in, cooked for the Rotary like he does many of their events, and in the end they won!

“The Kiwanis Club of the Pahrump Valley was competing against the Rotary in a playful competition,” O’Donnell continued. “Kiwanis member Colonel Patrick Nary made steak tacos and won third place for Judge’s Choice. He continued to cook up taco tastings until about 2 p.m. with a huge line and the whole time he kept yelling, ‘I’m here for the people!’ It was hilarious. They are such good sports. Gosh, what would we do without them?”

The Butterfly Effect and Alicia Lewis ended up nabbing two titles, the People’s Choice award and second place for Judge’s Choice. “It was crazy to see our benefactor win a prize,” O’Donnell said. “The crowd loved their choice of entry, which was the shrimp taco with mango salsa.”

Other Taco Fest contenders included Dr. Suzanne Zervantian of All Creatures Animal Hospital, who entered two different types of taco, and Nye County Commission District 2 candidate Salli Kerr, who could not be there in person but who made certain someone was there in her stead.

“Suzanne wanted to ensure the event was a success and felt compelled to do what she could, including going all-out with her pop-up tent and festive colors and decor,” O’Donnell remarked with gratitude. “And Candace Lieber sat in for Salli Kerr because Salli was out of town on business. Salli’s son Ethan was caring for a kitten that was burned in a structure fire so he couldn’t be there for a long period of time but he did ultimately take the trash to the dump for us, which we really appreciated.”

The final cook taking part in the Taco Fest was Erica Johnston and RNG Farms, whom O’Donnell personally helped to get involved.

“RNG Farms is having a hard time financially lately so I gave her a spot for free to sell baked goods and her taco cook booth as well,” O’Donnell explained. “I paid for her health permit and her food personally, I wanted to get Erica involved. She’s just good people. We are planning a fundraiser for RNG Farms at Lakeview Executive Golf Course in the very near future with the band Perception, which also performed at the Pahrump Taco Fest this year.”

Helping to determine this year’s winners were four Taco Fest judges, including real-life judges Kim “The Hammer” Wanker, Robert Lane and Michelle Fiore, along with Nye County Sheriff Joe McGill, who determined their favorite entries using a double-blind taste test. Karen Jackson of KNYE Radio was also scheduled to judge but was unable to as she was caring for her dog.

“Fortunately Karen’s dog is doing better now,” O’Donnell noted, adding, “And Karen provided advertisement to the Taco Fest for free, we greatly appreciate that.”

In conclusion, O’Donnell offered thanks to several others who helped make Taco Fest possible.

“Thank you to Valley Electric, which provided the generator for the cooks and Joe’s Sanitation, which provided the portable toilets and wash basin. Thank you to the cheer team members who volunteered and even cheered for us. We want to thank Westfield jewelers, Robin Hebrock and the Pahrump Valley Times, Sue Huff, Pahrump Print Solutions, the town of Pahrump buildings and grounds crew, Judge Kim Wanker’s court volunteers and volunteers from the Pahrump Powwow, who sold tickets and calculated the votes for the judges and people’s choice award winners,” O’Donnell stated. “Tiffany Crystal and her family band were great; her dad George Gohlson does DJing just like me and they are so talented! I asked if he could DJ Taco Fest and he agreed. Thank you to George and his beautiful wife Denise.”

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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