If there was ever one place where you could see, touch, and taste everything good about Winona, it is – without question – the Annual Taste of Winona and Arts Auction. And I’ll fight anyone who disagrees. Just kidding, fighting is dumb, but I’m serious about this. So serious that I’m going to give away tickets to it.
And it’s not just because I’m a co-chair for the event that I think it’s awesome. That’s right – in the interest of full disclosure, I confess right now I am one of the co-chairs for the event I’m about to tell you about. Yes, for nine years I’ve lain awake at night agonizing over it in my head, spent months shamelessly hounding complete strangers for donations, and ultimately tie every inch of my self-worth to it’s success or failure. But hey, doesn’t mean I can’t be objective. OK, maybe not. But don’t take my word for it – ask one of the hundreds of people who come and they will tell you the same thing: This event has it all. By the end of the evening, what you learn about Winona, even if you’re FROM Winona, always feels a little bit like discovering treasure.
There are restaurants – a dozen of them – plying attendees with tastes of their best recipes. There are places that people already love, places that are brand new, places that are reinventing themselves. The spread is as varied as the chefs bringing it, from crab puffs to cupcakes, but it’s all delicious and here’s why: The people who come vote on their “Favorite Taste” with little voting tokens they get, and the winners get a handsome little plaque and bragging rights. As if the food was not enough, seven area wine vendors bring in a HUGE assortment of wine – I saw the list today and there will be 35 different varieties in the room to try (!). Believe me when I say your taste buds will thank you if you come, but your waistline probably won’t.
But the food and wine are just part of what makes this event so great… there is a an auction that contains just about everything people love to do. Our restaurants and caterers, Signatures, Jeffersons Pub and Grill, Hillside Fish House, Blooming Grounds, Hy-Vee Catering, Bluff Country Co-op, Green Mill, Poot’s, Kesala’s Creative Cakes, HeavenScent Cakes and Pastries, Awakenings Coffee House, and Winona Bread and Bagel, have all donated things to be auctioned off. Cool things. Delicious things. And some cool people get involved and let us auction them off too, and I think that’s pretty brave. Politicians, actors from the Great River Shakespeare Festival, local celebrities — they just let us throw them out there as dinner dates and such, which I confess I probably wouldn’t do. My luck – I’d get a winner who wanted to yell at me for a couple of hours about something, and I’d be trapped there like a rat, eating pasta. But I digress…
Anywhoo, theaters, florists, bed and breakfasts, massage therapists, stylists, and on and on and on have all given us things to put out for bids. And artists, which Winona is blessed to be full of, have filled our event with beautiful work of every kind. Honestly, this is an event that is really built by this community, because even businesses that don’t have a product to donate will donate money to this event so we can turn every dollar raised that night right into funding for Big Brothers Big Sisters. The outpouring is overwhelming, and the committee is so proud to show off every wonderful corner of Winona that night.
This is a hugely social event – last year it drew some 300 people who ultimately helped us raise almost $40,000 by the end of the night. But it’s also a great chance for people to get excited about Winona and all the things you can find here, all the things you can do, places you can eat, treasures you can discover. Personally, if I was any more excited I’d be dangerous, but then again, I’ve seen the auction lineup. This is an amazing event only because this is an amazing place. Taste of Winona and Arts Auction is just there to remind people of that.
If you want to go:
Saturday August 4 – Winona County History Center
Food and wine tasting from 5:30-7:30
Live auction at 7:30, followed by the closing of silent auction sections
$20 – in advance or at the door – but I *strongly* advise you to get your tickets in advance because the “have tickets” line is a four-second wait, and the “buy tickets” line is not even close to that. Hy-Vee and Midtown Foods have tickets, and you can buy them online at www.tasteofwinona.org. On that website you can also follow a link to see the entire live auction lineup, and you can bid on things through Friday evening, then we’ll carry your bid to the auction and bid for you. How is that for cool?
And I’m carrying around a few tickets in my purse, so I’m going to give them away here. Here’s what I’m going to do… I have four tickets, and I’m going to give them away to the first four comments. You can only comment once, and you just have to say something nice about Winona. You’re going to have to make sure your full name is in your comment, as I’m going to put your ticket at Will Call (p.s. that’s the fast lane for people who already have tickets). Have at it, folks, and I hope I see you Saturday!