When it started 29 years ago, Taste of Manatee was a unique two-day celebration in downtown Bradenton created to benefit charity by having about 20 top area chefs prepare small plates of food that averaged about $4 a plate.
“Taste” was a hit.
Put on by The Rotary Club of West Bradenton the first weekend in November, the event, which also featured free admission, music and arts and crafts for kids, grew to score a record weekend of 15,000 guests in 2012 on Bradenton’s new Riverwalk, netting about $25,000 for charities, chairperson Tony Gallo said Thursday.
But things have fallen off the last few years.
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“Nowadays there is something going on every weekend having to do with food and entertainment,” Gallo said Thursday. “But back then, we were the first ones that really got it all started.”
“Last year I think we averaged $9,000,” Gallo said. “That made us wonder if it made any sense anymore to do this alone.”
Feeling it was time to rethink things, The Rotary Club of West Bradenton has pulled the plug on the 2016 Taste of Manatee, which was supposed to be Nov. 4-5 at Sutton Park in Palmetto, where it has been the last two years.
There was still hope that “Taste” could be put on at Sutton this year, but Rotary Club members realized that besides the dwindling bottom line, their volunteer force to put the event on was also depleted, Gallo said.
“We are down, due to deaths and other things, to around 15 members,” Gallo said of The Rotary Club of West Bradenton, which has always had upwards of 30 members. “We decided to take on a partner.”
Del Couch Music Education Foundation agreed to help and will be a part of “Taste” going forward, Gallo confirmed.
Del Couch and The Rotary are now in talks with the University of South Florida to perhaps hold “Taste of Manatee” next April, on its campus where Brunch on the Bay has become extremely popular, said Joe Stoddard, president-elect of The Rotary Club of West Bradenton.
“We are truly looking at rebranding it and maybe on the USF campus,” Stoddard said Thursday. “I’m not sure if it would be the same location where USF holds its Brunch on the Bay.”
Gallo said the reinvented “Taste” at USF may be a one-day event in about the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. range and may lose the kid’s attractions.
“We should have a firm idea by the end of November,” Stoddard said.
Gallo has been with “Taste” the whole way and, on Thursday, he said he has mixed feelings about what has happened to it.
“It’s a two-way street,” Gallo said. “I enjoyed doing it, but I was happy to hear that Del has signed on. Hopefully we can keep the name and keep it going because it’s been around so long.”