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'Taste of' extravaganza returns

It's that time of year again, when District 833 families get the chance to taste a bit of everything South Washington County has to offer.

The South Washington County Schools Education Foundation's Taste of South Washington County Extravaganza will come to Woodbury High School on May 5.

"We really want to not only raise funds for the Education Foundation, but also be an opportunity to build a sense of community," foundation executive director Patti Bitney Starke said.

The Taste of South Washington County Extravaganza was started in 1998 when the education foundation was born. The group needed a way to get its name and mission before the public.

In order to do that, the foundation compiled a cookbook of recipes from around the district. This later evolved into the extravaganza of today.

All proceeds from the extravaganza go towards the continued support of innovative educational programs.

Last year's event brought in $46,980. An extravaganza is also usually held in the fall at Park High School in Cottage Grove. The most recent one, however, was held at Oltman Junior High School. That extravaganza raised $37,171.

The first extravaganza drew around 500 people for the event. Since then, more than 1,000 people come out to taste what South Washington County has to offer.

This year's extravaganza will feature 20 local restaurants serving a variety of different foods, accompanied by the jazz stylings of the WHS, Park High School, Woodbury Junior High School and OJHS bands.

"I've had people say 'I'm trying to take a bit of everything but I'm not sure if I'll make it all the way through,'" Starke said. "There's so much food available."

Not only will guests enjoy various cuisines, they will also have the opportunity to bid on prizes during a silent auction.

"It's just a fun event," Starke said. "It is the one opportunity where you can sit with your principal and have dinner and you're not sitting with your principal because you're in trouble."

The education foundation has also added a new element this year. The group will be handing out awards to the different restaurants in specific categories, such as best ethnic, best burger and best drink.

Starke said the foundation is delighted to be able to maintain the same number of restaurants and sponsors despite the ailing local economy, even though some of their sponsors have not been able to sponsor at the same level.

Starke said she is not worried about their numbers going down this year because attendants get so much for their dollar.

"There's a huge value for your dollar," she said. "I think people have some hope today that things are turning around. We know we'll be hit in some respects but it won't take us under."

Starke said attendants love coming to the extravaganza because they get a chance to taste what the local restaurants have to offer and reconnect with teachers and friends in a social setting.

"It's a reunion feeling for a lot of people. I enjoy that all generations are there, senior citizens are there, baby boomers are there, people in their 20s and 30s are there," she said. "And the high school and junior high students are there. They're coming with their parents and their parents love the festivity of 20 different restaurants serving."

The South Washington County Schools Education Foundation's 11th Annual Taste of South Washington County Extravaganza is Tuesday May 5 from 4 to 8 p.m. at Woodbury High School. Twenty restaurants will be an attendance offering an assortment of food. Cost for the event is $7 for adults, $5 for students, and children under 5 are free.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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