The Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce (WCCC) was no longer interested in putting on any more big events. The New Tampa Rotary Club just happened to be looking for one.
So, with a little bit of gentle negotiations, the Taste of New Tampa — formerly a New Tampa Chamber of Commerce fund raiser that was inherited by the WCCC when the two chambers merged in 2014 — fell back in New Tampa’s mouth…errr, hands.
“They had an asset, meaning the trademark for the Taste of New Tampa, and it was a great opportunity for us as a club to take on that trademark,’’ says Karen Frashier, the president-elect of the New Tampa Rotary and chair of the 21st (but now-renamed) “Taste of New Tampa & Wesley Chapel.”
Scheduled for Saturday, March 18, noon-4 p.m., at the new Florida Hospital Center Ice, this year’s Taste has the potential to be the best one ever.
Why? Here are our top five reasons you should attend the 2017 “Taste”:
If you attended many of the previous 20 Tastes, chances are there was at least a time or two when you cursed out the weather. Whether you were soaked by the rain or just drenched in your own sweat, being held outdoors sometimes made the food spectacular a crapshoot.
But, you’ll want to wear an extra layer of clothing for this one.
You won’t be standing directly on ice — but it will be beneath the rink’s special “sports court” floor — and the temperature inside the FHCI will be below 60 degrees.
You’ll be dry from any rain, though, and you can leave the sunscreen at home. Hurrah!
The last Taste in 2013, due to the threat of torrential rain, ended up having fewer than 20 restaurants show up. This year’s event already has 41 signed up, with a month to go. According to our own Gary Nager, the restaurant chair for the 2017 “Taste”, there are another dozen or so still interested in participating at our deadline, so you might just have the choice of sampling food and adult beverages from more than 50 restaurants and beverage providers when it’s all said and done.
Your choices cover just about the whole spectrum of categories. Arroy Thai, Cantina Laredo, Dempsey’s Steak House, Latin Twist Cafe, Little Italy’s, OTB Delights Cafe, Paramount Lebanese Kitchen, Pepe’s Cuban Cafe and Union 72 are among the many participating at our press time.
And, organizers didn’t forget about your sweet tooth, as Blondie’s Cookies, La Berry Yogurt & Ice Cream, 7 Layers Bakery, Happy Cow Frozen Yogurt and The Cake Girl are among those that will be dishing out desserts. For a complete list, check out pages 34-39 of our latest New Tampa issue, or pages 40-45 of our upcoming Wesley Chapel issue.
3. IT’S FOR A GOOD CAUSE
The New Tampa Rotary Club supports a lot of worthwhile causes, and much of the money raised at The Taste will help the club support about 25-30 nonprofits in this area. The Rotary’s signature project is Feeding America Tampa Bay, so four mobile food pantries in the USF area, Meals on Wheels and the club’s meal-packing events – to which the club devotes $10,000-14,000 annually — will benefit.
“We saw (the Taste) as a great potential fund raiser for the nonprofits that we support,” Frashier says.
Also, 10 percent of the net proceeds will be provided to the WCCC to be used for scholarships for area high school students. The WCCC already gives out mutliple scholarships to students at Wesley Chapel and Wiregrass Ranch high schools, but now, thanks to The Taste, you can add Freedom and Wharton to that list, too.
4. THE ENTERTAINMENT
The Taste continues to add new stuff every week, but you can plan on checking out the Wiregrass Ranch drumline, the Bob Thompson Trio and the New Tampa Players, a local acting troupe that plans to perform a medley of Broadway hits, including some from the group’s latest production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Frashier also said that all of the sponsors will have tables, and FHCI will offer open skating plus hockey, figure skating and perhaps even curling demonstrations.
There will be an area set up for kids to work on projects, and a trophy presentation at the end of the event — The People’s Choice Awards, where the public can vote on the tastiest food (or beverage) they sampled during the day. The top three vote-getters will win the “People’s Choice” awards.
5. GEORGE STELLA
Stella will be on hand, and we hear he will be showing everyone how he makes two of his more popular dishes — Anaheim Shrimp Scampi and Plant City Strawberry Shortcake Martinis.
Stella, who once weighed 467 pounds before dropping 250 by cutting out carbs, hosts “Low-Carb And Loving It” on the Food Network, and his most recent book — Low Carb Essentials — sold out in two days on QVC, Frashier said.
He will be signing copies of the book at The Taste, so if you need to drop a few pounds, the day after this event may sound like a good time to start.
For ticket and volunteer info for the 2017 Taste of New Tampa & Wesley Chapel, visit TasteOfNewTampa.org.