Dianne Frances D. Powell
TERRE HAUTE —
Food lovers of all ages gathered Saturday along Seventh Street for a day of fun, games and tailgate food.
Area chefs and tailgaters set up their grills, cooking supplies and ingredients at the Professional Office Building parking lot in the Union Hospital Campus for the inaugural Terre Haute Tailgate Taste-Off.
Participants prepared their best food hoping to win one of the awards: best main dish, best side dish, best appetizer and fan favorite.
The four judges included Party Marty of radio station Q102.7 and three wrestlers from New Wave Pro Arena, who were at the event for an afternoon demonstration match.
Among the participants of the taste-off are two brothers who said they “tailgate all the time” and thought it was a fun idea.
“It’s for charity,” Jeff Figurelli of Terre Haute said.
Accompanied by his brother, Dan, who now lives in Bloomington, they set up at the parking lot to prepare chicken and waffle sandwiches, Chicago combo (Italian sausage and beef) and Giardiniera potato salad.
Wearing matching Chicago Bears jerseys, the brothers said they are prepared to serve about 100 people and even practiced cooking in their driveway the night before.
But they see it as fun, not a contest.
“This is more of a fun, learning experience for us,” Figurelli said.
Some participants are optimistic about their chances of winning.
Three participants of the taste-off, representing Cobblestone Crossings Health Campus “absolutely” hope to win.
“We’re proud of our cooking skills so we thought this will be a wonderful event,” said Jeri Heskett, director of food services at the health campus.
Under the tent with Heskett were Dan Fuelle and Frank Acosta, who prepared the food before judging began.
The three just love to cook, Heskett said.
The group prepared to serve four dishes: Bourbon baked beans, beer brats, caprese flatbread pizza and grilled baked potato. The herbs they brought for their dishes were grown in the health campus garden, Heskett said.
But more than sharing food, the event also gave area groups a chance to reach out to the community.
“It’s a wonderful way to showcase our campus… we do a lot of things for our residents that are above and beyond,” Heskett said.
Two other participants came out to represent.
Carlie Ferrell and Trudy Rupska of VNA and Hospice of the Wabash Valley prepared what they called the “Out of this World Bean Salsa.”
Rupska said that their organization is a partner of the organizers at Union Hospital, and they wanted to support the effort.
The event also “gives us the chance to talk about our services,” Rupska said.
“It’s a beautiful day and it’s for a great cause,” Ferrell said.
On the other side of the grill, attendees were able to purchase taste-off cards for $5, which allowed them 10 tastings. Organizers said 100 percent of the proceeds from the taste-off and concession stand will benefit the United Way of the Wabash Valley.
And the full day event has something for everyone.
“We try to appeal to a lot of different people in a lot of different levels” through the different activities, said Mike King, one of the coordinators of the event.
Some of the free activities at the event were the Gladiator Games, Car/Truck Cruise-In vehicle display and the New Wave Pro Wrestling demonstration.
The “Kid Zone” Bouncin’ Barn Bounce Houses were also available for children.
“It gives everybody an opportunity to stay busy and active,” King said.
The marketing and public relations team at Union Hospital worked with area groups to make the event possible, King said.
Among the area groups that supported the event by either donating items or putting on the different activities are the Terre Haute Savings Bank, The Bouncin’ Barn, First Financial Bank, viamedia, Adamson’s and the local media.
Local media included the Tribune-Star, WTWO, and WAWV.
“We’re happy with the turnout,” King said of what he estimated to be 300-400 people at the event in the morning. That number may reach to more than a thousand (coming and going) by the end of the day, King said.
Their goal was to raise as much money as possible for United Way. King said their goal was to make $2,500. “We like to think we can make it a big success in our first year,” he said.
Troy Fears, executive director of the United Way of the Wabash Valley said the proceeds will fund programs in education, income and health.
“It’s a great community event,” he said of the Terre Haute Tailgate Taste-Off, where people who love food gathered.
He also said the event is “great for families.”
The effort is appreciated by the organization.
“For people to donate their time and talent… it means a lot,” Fears said.
Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or firstname.lastname@example.org.