By Vicki Ikeogu
Think there isn’t a way Monticello community members can top the successes of Riverfest? Well, hold my sampling plate and partially empty wine glass because Taste of the Towns is approaching.
Now in its eighth year, the Rotary Club of Monticello will be continuing its tradition of food, beer, wine and spirit sampling in downtown Monticello.
“It’s the social event of the year,” said Linda Mielke, president of the Rotary Club of Monticello. “It’s just fun to see and experience all the different vendors. And all proceeds are spent on local community service projects.”
Hosted on Thursday, Sept. 14 in the public parking lot behind Cornerstone Café – on the corner of the Third and Walnut – Rotarian and co-chair of the Taste of the Towns event Natalie Gruber anticipates about 600 attendees will flock to the event.
“This by far is the biggest fundraiser the Rotary does each year,” Gruber said. “In terms of the amount of people attending and the amount of money raised.”
For the last number of years Taste of the Towns has been able to raise around $20,000. All of that money stays local.
“We do a lot of work with park upkeep,” Gruber said. “We donate dictionaries to seventh graders, provide hats and gloves to elementary school kids, we also put on a backpack program for students on free and reduced lunch so they can have access to food on the weekends.”
Planning for the Taste of the Towns fundraiser starts as early as October, Mielke said. But a majority of the work for the 60 Monticello Rotarians kicks off in May.
“The biggest and most important part of this event is getting the vendors there,” she said.
And part of the responsibility sits on the shoulders of Rotarian Tina Burkholder.
“We try to get around 16 to 18 food vendors each year,” Burkholder said. “Right now, we have about 13 vendors.”
A lot of the food vendors are returning favorites. But Burkholder said Buffalo Wild Wings and Huikko’s Bison Creek Bar & Dining are joining the mix of vendors this year.
“It’s up to each restaurant to decide what they want to bring,” she said.
Accompanying the food vendors are a large assortment of beer, wine and spirit vendors eager to provide the newest concoctions to thirsty guests.
“We have a very nice mixture of beer and wine vendors,” said Rotarian and beverage vendor coordinator Michelle Redding. “And we do have some non-alcoholic drinks as well.”
Redding said the eighth annual Taste of the Towns will have around 25 beverage vendors including beverage distributors and microbreweries.
“Each table will have about four to six different selections (of beverages) available,” she said.
During the three-hour event – running from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. – participants can sample and then vote on the best food and the best beverage vendor of the night.
“It was hard for me to vote last year,” Redding said. “There were so many different vendors and everyone was bringing their A-game.”
But one thing that isn’t hard is filling up your belly.
“It’s neat that this is an event that a lot of people come to every year,” Gruber said. “I look forward to doing this year after year. You get to eat and drink to your heart’s content.”
Tickets for Taste of the Towns are $30 in advance and $40 at the door. Advanced tickets are available at www.rotarytasteofthetown.com or at Best Western Chelsea Inn & Suites, North Risk Partners – Apollo Division, Gateway Financial Strategies, Loch Jewelers, and Dan Olson State Farm Insurance.
Vicki Ikeogu is a freelance reporter for the Monticello Times