By Elisa Santana

The eighth annual International Cuban Sandwich Festival returns to Ybor City this year on Saturday and Sunday, March 30-31. Hispanic music will expand for miles as aromas of authentic Hispanic food seep through the air.

Cheer on as vendors try to take the title and create the longest Cuban sandwich—the title currently belongs to the Kissimmee festival when a 170 ft. long sandwich was built.

This event celebrates the rich culture and history behind the iconic Cuban sandwich. “We created this in 2012 in Ybor. This is Cuban sandwich culture but it isn’t only celebrating Cubans. We celebrate Italians’ and German Jews’ culture as well. Cubans brought [the sandwich] to us. [Starting] in Key West, tobacco workers would bring their
‘Mixto’—sandwich made with leftover pork. When Italians migrated and opened up their delis, they added salami. And German Jews added the mustard, Swiss cheese and pickles,” said co-organizer Victor Padilla.

Together with his wife, Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla, they came up with the idea to start a Cuban Sandwich Festival.

“Since 2012, this event has been very blessed and very well supported. [People] come from everywhere. [It’s] loved by everyone. People love to come and eat Cuban sandwiches and drink, digest and eat some more,” Padilla said. “Thousands of people come. We can get anywhere between 10 to 25,000 [people].”

You can look forward to salsa dancers, live performers and groups like Orchestra Fuego, Sol Caribe, Vaya DJ Johnnie Rivera and food and jewelry vendors.

On Saturday, you can watch the longest Cuban sandwich be made and then be distributed to the homeless. This year, there will be a Cuban sandwich showdown for kids that aspire to be chefs, but do not have the best circumstances in their lives. The winners get cash prizes. For the main Cuban sandwich showdown, the winner not only gets the title of Best Cuban Sandwich, but a ‘golden ticket’ to the World Food Championship.

Catch the action beginning on Saturday, March 30 at Centro Asturiano de Tampa, 1913 N. Nebraska Ave. and Sunday, March 31 at Centennial Park in Historic Ybor.

This family event is free and pet friendly. For VIP tickets or more information, visit ilovecubansandwiches.com.