The muffled music of an acoustic guitar comes first, promptly trailed by the smell of meat on a grill. Finally, the bright colors of food trucks and booths appear, each commanding passers-by to join the line preceding them.
Then there are the people. They come with their stomachs empty and pockets full of tickets, ready to eat.
From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday in Phoenix Park, Taste of the Valley created a celebration of restaurants and vendors based in the Chippewa Valley.
Melissa Maxwell, president-elect of the Chippewa Valley After Hours Rotary Club, the event’s sponsor, said Sunday’s festival was full of sample-worthy cuisine.
“I don’t think you can go wrong with any of our vendors,” Maxwell said.
Visitors selected their meals from 16 vendors. Exchanging $1 for one food ticket, they tasted food from menus of two to six items such as golden-yellow corn on the cob topped with butter, technicolor shaved ice or frothy amber beer.
The event set a record, said David Shaurette, the foundation chairman and a past president of After Hours. He estimated more than 6,000 people bought food tickets.
Attendees awarded select cuisine “Best of the Taste” title by voting for their favorites. Bar-B-Q Express earned best appetizer, The Hubb best entree, Maui Wowi Smoothies best drink and Main Street Cafe best dessert.
The cheese curds from All Star Catering’s yellow and green food truck topped Altoona resident Mary Mickelson’s personal list.
Though a self-proclaimed “cheese curd freak,” the cheesy morsels aren’t the only reason she returns to the festival each year: Mickelson said the sizable menu is great to explore with friends in tow.
“You get a choice,” Mickelson said. “You can’t say there’s nothing you like here.”
Vendor Alexis Lucas, who owns Chip Magnet Salsa with her husband, interacted with her booth’s visitors and kept the tortilla chip basket full. In addition to salsa, Lucas offered bloody mary drinks and buffalo chicken salad. She said she values the exposure Taste of the Valley gives her.
“I think getting in front of people you wouldn’t get in contact with in a grocery store is really valuable,” Lucas said.
Farther down from Chip Magnet’s booth, Julie Kalpinski of Eau Claire stood in line for barbecue at Life Support BBQ LLC’s food truck, which is painted to resemble an ambulance.
Kalpinski called the barbecue from the Life Support “worth the wait” but explained her hankering for a good meal wasn’t the only reason she decided to come to Taste of the Valley — the festival allowed her to give back to her community simply by buying food.
“It’s nice to be able to try the different venues,” Kalpinski said, “and also the proceeds go to different charities.”
Maxwell said the After Hours’ proceeds will be used to buy Thanksgiving meals for people in need.
“They were very appreciative of what we’re able to do,” Maxwell said. Last year, After Hours gave 34 families or individuals a Thanksgiving meal, and Maxwell hopes to improve that number this year.
After savory cheese curds, barbecue and salsa, dessert is a must-have. For this, Amber Lee of Eau Claire recommended the Scotch-a-Ron’s from Main Street Cafe, her personal favorite food of the festival. Sunday was her fourth time at Taste of the Valley with her family.
“It’s a good chance to sample a variety of food that I wouldn’t have,” Lee said. “I hope this keeps going every year because we love coming.”
Source : http://www.leadertelegram.com/News/Front-Page/2018/06/03/Taste-of-the-Valley-draws-crowd-to-sample-local-flavorsranging-from-spicy-to-sweet-for-charitable-cause.htmlThanks you for read my article Taste Of The Valley Draws Crowd To Sample Local Flavors Ranging From Spicy To Sweet For Charitable Cause