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Last Taste of Kokomo Hosted by United Way

Last Taste of Kokomo Hosted by United Way

08/10/2015

Contact: BETH RATTRAY AND KAMBREN STANLEY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Kokomo, IN August 10, 2015/Press Release/ - - The annual Taste of Kokomo, voted Kokomo's best event ten years in a row, will be held Saturday, August 15, 2015, from 5pm to 10:30pm in Foster Park. All proceeds will benefit the United Way of Howard County and this will be the last Taste hosted by United Way.

The 19th annual Taste of Kokomo is slated to fill up Foster Park with countless samples from area restaurants, served with sides of music and all the fun and food-eating contests for which the tasting event has become known.
But for United Way, this will be the last year the organization sponsors and puts on the event.
United Way president Abbie Smith said the decision comes down to the growth of the event and the time it requires each year from UW staff and volunteers. Smith said her desire is to return UW’s focus year-round to its mission.
“It has outgrown us. It takes so much time now that we really want to focus on our core mission and just kind of get back to what we do here at United Way,” Smith said.
Another reason for passing on the event, she said, is that is has become a community event rather than a fund raiser for United Way.
While Smith said United Way doesn’t lose money on the event, it’s not worth the time it takes for the funds it does bring in.
To put on the event, it takes the nonprofit’s four staff members who begin planning for the event in the February/March time frame and continue for months. It also takes a committee of about 10 to 12 volunteers who focus on certain sections of the event and yet another 300 volunteers to set up, man, and tear down the event.
“It takes quite a bit of manpower and definitely our time,” she said.
The decision is a nod to the event since it has become so successful, she said. And knowing how well-loved it is in the community, she’s confident another organization will take it on and not let this year’s event be the last.
Smith has been in early talks with First Friday organizers, Greater Kokomo Chamber of Commerce, and City of Kokomo.
“We’re all on board to find a solution for next year. I have full confidence that someone will pick it up and keep it going and reimagine it to be whatever they want it to be. It’ll move forward, so by no means are we ending the Taste of Kokomo. We just are ushering it into a new era,” she said.
Smith said her idea is that an organization that’s in the business of hosting events will take it on rather than a nonprofit because a nonprofit will run into the same problems United Way has.
“The thing that’s so, so important is that whoever takes it over really needs to be in the business of community events. So whoever takes it over will probably have some of the same issues that we have in that it’s not really a fund raiser anymore. It’s a community event, featuring our restaurants and bands and family-friendly entertainment, and so it really needs to be someone who is keeping with that core mission. Otherwise, another nonprofit is just going to have the same issues that we did,” she said.
The shift will allow UW to focus on the growing number of programs it has been putting on, Smith said, like this year’s first-time Meet Up, Eat Up, Read Up that provided free educational resources, recreation, and lunches for students while they were out of school, and the second-annual and expanded Kindergarten Readiness Program. And as school starts, UW is beginning yet another program, Howard County Promise, which helps kindergarteners start saving for post-secondary education.
“These are the things we’re here to do. We’re here to identify and respond effectively to the community’s most pressing social needs, and so we want to just try to focus on that and fulfill our promise to the community,” she said.
Still, Smith said it will be sad to hand it off.
“I’m kind of sad, though. None of it is negative. None of it is bad. We’re focusing on the things the community expects of us, and the Taste of Kokomo has grown to be a great event in and of itself,” she said.
Kambren Stanley, this year’s Taste of Kokomo coordinator, said even though this is UW’s last Taste of Kokomo, the quality of the event hasn’t dropped.
“The quality of the event is not going to be sacrificed just because is it the last event. Many people have put hard work into it, so we really want to make it a really good time and not dwell so much on the fact that it’s the last one for United Way,” Stanley said.

The Taste of Kokomo offers a "taste" from local restaurants, caterers, coffee shops and pubs. This year there is a meal item for everyone ranging from your classic pizza to grouper nuggets to a farm fresh veggie skewer for all of you foodies. We have accepted 20 restaurants into the Taste this year. All food and drink items are sold for tickets not cash. One food/drink ticket is worth $1. All items cost between 1-5 ticket(s). Wine and beer will be served in the beer garden. There is no admission fee.

“I am excited for the community to come together to taste the many restaurants we have in Kokomo and to learn about the new ones as well,” said Kambren Stanley, Taste of Kokomo Coordinator.
This year the Taste of Kokomo is being coordinated by Indiana University Kokomo student, Kambren Stanley, who is a senior and majoring in communications with a concentration in public relations.

“I came to United Way job shadowing a year ago, fell in love with the work that United Way does and then this position for an intern became available and I took it,” said Stanley.
Bands from several genres will be playing on the Performing Arts Pavilion. The evening kicks off with the Coco Blues Band at 4 pm then moving on to The Canadian Tuxedos and before we get to the headliner we will have Rewind at 7 p.m. The headliner this year is CTA, (California Transit Authority). Based in Los Angeles and fueled by the creative passion of original Chicago drummer Danny Seraphine.

There will be two food challenge events; first one kicking off the Taste at 5 p.m. and will be a speed eating pie contest. The Fruit Frenzy will have four contestants that will consume their pies as quickly as they can. North Street Carryout and Puckett’s Pies donate the pies and we would like to thank the local business for providing them. The second event at 6:30pm is the Hot Wing Eating Contest. The Coterie will be bringing their Carolina Reaper Sauce this year to spice things up at the Taste of Kokomo. The Coterie is new to Kokomo and new to the Taste as well! The Carolina Reaper pepper wins in the Guinness World Record as the “Hottest Chili Pepper” in 2013.

Don’t forget to bring the kids; the Taste of Kokomo’s Kids’ Corner has bounce houses, face painting and balloon animals.
See you Saturday in the Park!