For baseball fans, the arrival of late September means playoff chases and World Series dreams. MLB is hoping they’ll also bring their appetites.
On September 21 and 22, MLB will be hosting its third-ever FoodFest in New York City. Sponsored by Budweiser, the event will be held on Fifth Avenue near Bryant Park. All 30 MLB clubs are involved with the event, tasked with creating one concession food item indicative of their team and city’s culture and community.
According to Barbara McHugh, senior vice president of marketing at MLB, FoodFest highlights the diversity in baseball’s culture. With games now being played not only all over North America but across the globe, fans can bond over a different element of America’s Pastime via food.
“What’s important is to make it a social-first type of experience, so very interactive and very immersive,” said McHugh. “Everywhere you turn throughout the venue, you want to snap a photo or take a video – that was the core of it and how we put it all together.”
Debuting in April 2018, the inaugural FoodFest made quite an impression on the baseball community. When tickets went on sale for the event, they sold out in less than 48 hours, McHugh said. The event itself featured an abundance of food – from the Seattle Mariners’ “Toasted Grasshoppers” to the New York Yankees’ “Adobo Bao” – as well as an appearance from former Yankee and recent Hall of Fame inductee Mariano Rivera.
With the success of that first FoodFest, it convinced McHugh and MLB to add three more in the 2019 season. The first event this year was held from April 26 to 28 at the Magic Box in Los Angeles and featured celebrities such as actress Ashley Benson and rapper Logic. McHugh says that the second edition proved to be just as effective, making her feel confident about its return to New York in late September.
That will include new, unique activities for visitors to partake in. At FoodFest, there will be a “Home Run Derby Virtual Reality,” created by the MLB Games and VR team. It allows fans to wear a VR headset and, with a proprietary VR bat controller, putting them in their real-world home-run derby.
As the event sponsor, Budweiser will also be involved with the weekend festivities. It will have a brewmaster and a customer bar on display, where attendees will be recommended beer pairings for the food from the30 teams and learn how each club brews their beer.
“We think that this particular event has that unique blend of baseball, food and just a cultural experience – particularly when you combine all the digital elements and really that Instagrammable type of experience throughout,” said McHugh.
The step-in FoodFest’s development is to make it an international spectacle. After MLB played its first-ever London Series in June, and given the league’s return in June 2020, FoodFest will be making its UK debut this October. While dates and tickets have yet to be released, the event will vary slightly from its predecessors, McHugh said.
Taking place during the MLB postseason, the London FoodFest will focus on food items centered around the four London Series clubs: the Yankees and Red Sox from 2019 and the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals in 2020. It will have the traditional baseball snacks – peanuts, cracker jacks, soft-serve ice cream – but also mix in fan favorites from other MLB teams.
“We really wanted to create a new experience – a new fan experience – one that was geared towards a younger generation,” said McHugh. “This particular event – it’s the ultimate food-fan experience, where it gives fans the opportunity to have a sampling of food offerings from all 30 ballparks under one roof.”