PICTURED: Vanilla Ice headlines the Tequila and Taco Music Festival at the Ventura County Fairgrounds on July 24. Photo submitted

by Christina Fuoco-Karasinski


Rob Van Winkle is ready for early-morning interviews. Armed with coffee and a deft sense of humor, Van Winkle — also known as Vanilla Ice — said he’s looking forward to playing the Tequila and Taco Music Festival on Saturday, July 24. 

“Oh my God, I have to have Mexican food at least twice a week,” Van Winkle said with a laugh about the festival. “A lot of people in Florida can’t handle the spices. I could pitchfork it.”

Joining the Floridian on Saturday, July 24, are Tag Team and Adelaide. The next day sees Ozomatli and a Tribute to Selena and Latin artists hitting the stage. 

Since restrictions were lifted, Van Winkle has been playing gigs in his home state. He is excited to bring hits like “Ice Ice Baby” and “Ninja Rap” to the Ventura County Fairgrounds. 

“We’ve been marinating too long,” he said about the entertainment-wide shutdown during the pandemic. “I want everyone to get out and dance and enjoy anything other than the cyberworld.”

“We’re going to get them out of the cyberworld and back to the last of the greatest decades ever,” Van Winkle continued. “Everything was neon colors. We didn’t need Zumba class. We would dance like crazy to all the great music going on. The fashion, the pop culture, we got our movies at Blockbuster. We’re going to relive it and that’s what it’s about at Tequila and Taco Music Festival.”

Besides entertainment, festivalgoers can enjoy tequila sampling, street tacos, craft beer, refreshing margaritas and an artisanal craft market. A variety of top-shelf tequila brands are participating in the festival’s Saturday and Sunday tequila tasting, and margaritas and other beverages will be available for purchase. 

The concert, Van Winkle said, will hearken back to the 1990s, when Ninja Turtles and neon were all the rage. 

“Basically, I don’t care what age you are, we’re all teenagers at my shows,” he said. “I’m the oldest teenager in the crowd. I love it. We don’t have to accept responsibility until Monday. We’re going to have a great little weekend there . . . People get dressed up as Ninja Turtles and they’re our age. They come out in costumes. It’s a big, cool ’90s carnival with lots of neon color and funny, cheesy stuff going on.”

Van Winkle recently released two songs, “Ride the Horse” and “Vanilla Sprite.” He also penned new material during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. 

“I spent the pandemic playing around with music,” he said. “It’s been great for me. I was home a lot more. I have a 2-year-old little girl and I hung out and played with her. I could run around the house like a 2-year-old myself. Now, I’m ready to get out and dance, and work the Netflix and bags of chips off.”

Through Netflix, he discovered his favorite series, Outlander, which his wife introduced to him. 

“My girl got me into it,” he said. “She said, ‘You have to see it.’ I would ask her what she was watching and, of course, I couldn’t change the channel. I got into it and had to binge watch the whole thing.”

The year is going to be a busy one for Van Winkle. He filmed a Tide commercial and did movies with Adam Sandler.

“Whenever something pops up, we grind and then we shine,” he said. “I just enjoy life and I always believe that smiles are contagious. I love waking up and putting a smile on everyone’s faces.”

The Tequila and Taco Music Festival takes place Saturday, July 24, 1 to 9:30 p.m., and Sunday, July 25, noon to 6:30 p.m., at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura. Tickets start at $10; tequila sampling tickets sold separately. For more information, visit www.tequilaandtacomusicfestival.com.