South Florida’s eagerly awaited annual Mango Festival returns to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens on July 8 and 9, 2023, boasting a rich, 30-year history of the fruity extravaganza.
There will be an array of offerings with hundreds of tastings sourced directly from the Fairchild Farm in the Redland.
The festival emerged as a cornerstone event almost 30 years ago, offering a unique fusion of cultural celebration and culinary exploration. As a gateway to the tropical fruit’s rich heritage, this festival will excite the taste buds and deepen our understanding and appreciation, making it an unmissable experience for locals and visitors alike.
“Of all of our events it is the one that has the most human, emotional resonance,” said Fairchild’s Chief Operating Officer Nannette Zapata. “I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen a family or a person walk up to a mango, and they just get this look in their eyes.”
Nannette Zapata, 50, has 21 years of experience with Fairchild. She dedicates her work to reaching communities through managing Fairchild’s operations, including retail, events, marketing, magazine publishing, website, social media, facilities, public relations and more.
“Our reason for existence is to tell the world what it is that we do and to show the world how they too can do it,” said Zapata.
The Mango Festival is a product of Fairchild’s Tropical Fruit Program based in Redland.
“One of the tenets of botany is the utility of plants for humankind,” said Zapata. “The Mango Festival’s history is embedded in the roots of agriculture with the celebration of cultural and flavor diversity that mangoes represent.”
Fairchild is home to the world’s most extensive mango collection. Zapata said all the mangos served at the festival are locally grown.
“I worked at about 20 Fairchild Mango Festivals in a row,” said horticulturist Jeff Wasielewski. “2023 is an outstanding year for mangoes.”
Wasielewski, 52, worked under the director of horticulture and senior curator of tropical fruit at Fairchild, Richard J. Campbell, and is now a professor of horticulture at Miami Dade College’s Kendall Campus.
“[Wasielewski] He has always been passionate about horticulture and has applied this passion to tropical fruit,” said Campbell. “He always brings in a core of excellent students that want to participate in all aspects of the botanical garden.”
Wasielewski used to be Fairchild’s Educational Outreach Specialist but continues to serve the garden as a volunteer during the festivals.
“You go to certain festivals, and they give you the fruit and products, but the Fairchild Mango Festival teaches you as well,” says Wasielewski. “There will be over 120 people in the crowd, and they will talk about pruning mangoes, planting mangoes, the different varieties and caring for your own tree.”
The festival pays homage to the cultural heritage associated with mangoes and will allow attendees the opportunity to indulge in more mangoes than possibly imagined.
“The conditions lined up just right for mango season this year,” said Wasielewski. “That will surely transfer over to a fantastic Mango Festival.”
The Fairchild Mango Festival will be held Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The address is 10901 Old Cutler Road. Entry costs are $24.95 for adults, $17.95 for seniors and $11.95 for children, which will be available to purchase online.
This story was produced in conjunction with the Coconut Grove Spotlight.