RAM’s largest fundraiser nationwide, 5th Southern Tequila Festival Friday

Heading into its fifth year, the Southern Tequila Festival has expanded to a new location while adding attractions.

Abuelo’s Mexican Restaurant general manager John Volpe again presents the festival, which benefits Remote Area Medical, from 6 to 9 p.m., Friday, April 26, in the former location for Outlet Mall and At Home, across from Cotton Eyed Joe along Outlet Drive in Farragut.

Volpe expects anywhere from 2,200 to 2,500 to attend.

“We have a lot more (tequila, mezcal and sotol) brands this year, and we changed locations because we needed more room because it’s gotten so big,” he said. The festival previously was held at the old Gander Mountain site off Parkside Drive.

“We did something special this year because it’s our fifth year,” Volpe added. “We added a photo trailer that’s going to be (where) anybody who wants to have their picture taken, and (the trailer staff) will produce a commemorative photo that people can take home and keep forever.”

Advanced tickets can be purchased for $40 for general admission, which includes five tokens to sample tequilas, cocktails or beer, and three food tickets.

For those buying at the gate while looking for extra perks, cost is $60 if arriving by 5 p.m. These attendees receive six tokens for beverages and four tickets for food.

Otherwise, at-the-door general admission is $50. Also, there is a designated driver ticket for $15, which includes three food tickets and complimentary non-alcoholic beverages. Tickets are available online at southerntequilafest.com and on Facebook.

“This is actually huge,” RAM CEO Jeff Eastman said. “Other groups around the country do small fundraisers and walkathons, but this is the largest fundraiser of any group across the whole United States that supports Remote Area Medical.

“It makes a huge difference for our ability to treat patients, and the way it keeps growing just makes it a much bigger impact to those patients who are in need,” he added.

Last year, the festival raised around $40,000, RAM chief financial officer Don Mackay said.

“That $40,000 equaled approximately $125,000 in care to patients,” Eastman said. “That includes free dental care, free vision and free medical.”

The event was borne out of a request for a fundraiser five years ago.

“I had done a couple of tequila dinners for RAM, and they were pretty small time. We raised a couple hundred dollars,” Volpe recalled.

He then remembered someone with RAM asking if he could hold a tequila dinner for 250 people.

“I was like — ‘are you out of your mind?’ he said, laughing. “Then I thought about it for a while and came up with the idea of a festival.”

“(Volpe) does an amazing amount of work,” Eastman said.

“It really means a lot to be able to help an organization like this because I personally can’t take $60,000 out of my pocket and give it to them,” Volpe said. “So, to be able to do something to create that money is very fulfilling.”

For more information about RAM services, visit ramusa.org or call 865-862-6429.