PALMETTO -- Each year, Manatee County residents come out to try food from top local restaurants and food vendors in a weekend filled with music and good times.
Hundreds came out Saturday to the 29th annual Taste of Manatee in Sutton Park in Palmetto sampling cuisine from 18 local eateries or vendors. Despite fewer vendors providing food than previous years, attendees said they enjoyed the good weather and good food.
Tom Stratton of Palmetto, for example, was grabbing a cold beer after having tasted some food already.
"I come every year," Stratton said. "I've enjoyed it every year."
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With the afternoon just starting, he had already eaten fish tacos and shrimp, all of which he enjoyed, he said.
"It seems a little smaller this year," he added. "But I love this location. It flows great."
Members of the hosting West Bradenton Rotary Club said the latest event drew good reviews from customers.
"There are fewer vendors. Not sure why," member Beth Browning said. "The ones that are here are good though, and there is still a good variety."
Early Saturday, people were crowding the ticket booth where Browning was identifying those old enough to drink.
"We are very happy to be making money to give to our charities, which what this is for," Browning said.
Tommy Henager of Bradenton slowly began his own tasting.
"I've been to Taste of Manatee many times," Henager said.
Sipping on a cold beer under the tent to escape the sun, he had already eaten some pork roast with sauerkraut, which was great, he said.
"I preferred it on the Manatee River though but, wherever you have it, it's always good," Henager added.
Rick Meyers' Riverside Rollin'
Smoke BBQ drew one of the longest lines of hungry customers.
"We had a big line earlier," Meyers said. "Normally these festivals take a little time to get going, but this started off right out of the gate."
After only a couple hours, he was already making trips to his cafe for more food.
"People are saying our pulled pork is the best," Meyers said.
It was his first time at Taste of Manatee and he plans to partake in Gulf Coast Rhythm and Music Fest as well, he said.
"It's great to see so many local people here," Meyers said. "We participate in as many community events as possible."
Taste of Manatee added a classic car show this year. Dozens of classic cars of all makes and models were parked under the trees of the Northeast corner of Sutton Park, drawing car lovers of all ages.
"I like them all," said Jack Fowell of Ellenton. "An old geezer like me, I can look around and say I've had a lot of these cars."
He intended to make his way over to the food after checking out the cars.
"It's always been nice and nice entertainment," Fowell said.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.