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Tidbits make ‘Taste of Claremont’ even tastier

The crowds amassed at the Claremont Consortium last weekend to sample their way through a smorgasbord of selections at this year’s 15th annual Taste of Claremont celebration.
 
The variety didn’t disappoint. Hundreds of decadent food and drink items awaited hungry patrons, with options spanning Claremont’s vast culinary landscape. But while the delicious assortment certainly lends the "Taste" its flair, it’s what goes on behind the booths that give this event its unique flavor.

The Claremont Rotary, giving back to the local community since 1929, is at the helm of this distinctive food fair, which has dished out local goods for the past 15 years. A signature event for the club, Taste of Claremont has grown significantly in size and scope ever since. 

The food and drink are only a sampling of what makes the event enticing. With the funds raised, Rotarians will help provide for local programs like Best Bet, Bikes for Kids and Community College Scholarships, along with international causes like END POLIO NOW, Corazon Build and Water Wells. The money will also contribute to an array of other fundraising events the Rotary will host throughout the coming year.

Though Rotarians are still working to tallying up this year’s total, early estimates are promising with more than $50,000 expected, according to incoming president Tim Harrison.

In it’s earliest years, A Taste of Claremont was no more than a meet-and-greet where new Rotarians could socialize while enjoying wine and cheese. In those days it was held in a more intimate venue, at the Seaver House. The yearly gathering soon outgrew the venue, so the Rotarians relocated to Cahuilla Park, where the event would be held for many years. In 2012, realtor Bernadette Kendall began her term as the Taste of Claremont’s chairperson. Her first executive decision was to find a new location, one that wasn’t so vulnerable to the elements. For nine months she searched high and low, reaching out to fellow Rotarian’s and friends at The Colleges, and at long last found their new location, the Claremont Consortium.

The Consortium has proved the perfect locale as the celebration has continued to boom. It’s no longer just about the wine and cheese, though vendors like The Cheese Cave and The Packing House Wine Merchants certainly provide. The event now features live music, a silent auction, an art show, raffle prizes and of course lots and lots of food and drinks.

Such a massive undertaking means months of planning, hundreds of volunteers and years of experience, just to name a few. It all starts with the event team, led this year by Roger House, who is quick to dish out credit where it’s due.

“A taste of Claremont is not a one man band but the product of the donation of talent, labor and funds of our entire club membership,” he said.

With his team in place, Mr. House began the yearlong process of organizing, preparing and executing all of the details that go into this gigantic event. With each year the event grows, and this year has been no different. Mr. House says that through increased outreach and enhanced marketing, this year’s Taste is bigger than ever.

One integral member of the team is Celeste Martin of College Escrow, named public relations chair and raffle coordinator. She was in charge of securing all of the raffle prizes, including two sparkling Movado watches donated by Ben Bridge. An iPad Air and Galaxy tablet were also donated, to the delight of many in attendance, along with an array of other prizes. All of this is even more impressive given that Ms. Martin is new to the post, having taken over for former chair Tobie Medina.

“It’s a lot of hard work but it’s worth it, what’s better than giving back?” she said. 

Ms. Martin wasn’t the only one working hard; volunteers spent multiple days setting up and preparing for the big day. Vendors arrived early to set up their wares, including Kurt Dale, there to represent Dale Bros. Brewery and his brother Andy, a Claremont Rotarian. Merchants like the Dale Bros. along with many others make up the backbone of the event, Ms. Kendall insisted.

“This doesn’t happen without the vendors; wineries, breweries and restaurants,” she said. “Without them there is no A Taste of Claremont.”

Along with the vendors, a multitude of others have helped A Taste of Claremont to flourish. Local homeowners Patricia Wade and Diana Dykstra, owners one of the oldest orange groves in Claremont, donate their oranges every year to be a part of the celebration’s centerpieces. These decorations are in turn sold for $5, raising even more for Rotary’s charitable projects. Claremont High School’s Interact Club also has a hand in the day’s design, helping to pick the oranges and take part in the event setup.

This year’s was a true team effort. Disaster nearly hit early this year when Club president Anita Hughes fell sick and was unable to fulfill her duties. In true form, the Rotarians railed, with each former president serving for one month until Ms. Hughes was back on her feet.

“It’s been a very special year,” Ms. Hughes said. “We really have an awesome group of people.”

—Jessica Gustin and Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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