Event management alum brings first-of-its-kind tater tot festival to Grand Rapids

Contact: Chris Hybels

Kendall Soto

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Get ready to embark on a culinary adventure filled with everyone's favorite finger food—the tater tot! Kendall Soto (B.S.'21), a Western Michigan University event management alumna, is part of the team bringing one of the nation's first tater tot festival to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Attendees can anticipate sampling a diverse array of dishes at the Tots & Taps Festival at LMCU Ballpark on Saturday, May 4.

"All of the events we have done in the past have been a staple in some way," says Soto. "We got thinking what was the next best thing and potatoes are one of the most versatile food items that you can really do anything with, and it's someone's favorite in any capacity. So that's kind of where the idea came from and we're hoping we can come up with some pretty unique ideas with the tater tot."

Joining in 2023, Soto is the general manager of Outlier Events, a company that creates one-of-a-kind events and experiences. Founded in Kalamazoo, the company's most well-known event is the Donut and Beer Festival—an instant success that has since expanded to five different states. From there, Outlier started Michigan's first Taco and Tequila Festival and Mac and Cheese Festival.

According to Soto, Tots & Taps is going to be one of the most exciting events yet.

"There's going to be some form of entertainment for everyone. People can expect over 25 different vendors highlighting some of their items, over 150 beverages, entertainment for kids and live music. And we're also having a tater tot eating contest that is hosted by the guy who actually broke the world record for most tater tots eaten in three minutes!"

Tots & Taps will also be a first for Outlier Events in terms of location. In the past, their events have started in Kalamazoo then moved to a different location afterwards but this one will be starting in Grand Rapids.

"We've never brought a new festival to Grand Rapids. It's always been an event that's already been done before," she says. "And we just have had such a good connection with the community and we've had sold out crowds there since 2018."

Soto believes the experiences that she received as part of the event management program set her up for her current role. As a student she had the opportunity to be part of WMU Athletics as a special event assistant and interned with the Association for Behavior Analysis International to organize its annual convention. 

"Getting connected with people, trying new things and getting the most experiences I could in the event management program really set me up for success later on," says Soto. 


This interdisciplinary program empowers students to create their own event management pathway.  The core program focuses on event ideation, program design, technology, execution management, budgeting, and community engagement and is experientially based with both in-class and off-campus learning. Students are provided with opportunities to work with community businesses to experience the challenges of event implementation. Curriculum is designed to support the Meeting Planner International (MPI) Standards with courses that focus on the meeting and business event competency standards industry subsets. To learn more, visit the event management program webpage.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.