People across county are starting to make plans to attend the Taste of Washington County, which will be held at the Washington County Fair Grounds on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 6 to 10 p.m. “It’s a nice way to kick off the holidays,” said Jay Fisher, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Washington County.
“I think people like it because they know all the money stays right here to benefit all the kids in Washington County who are members of the Boys & Girls Clubs.” This will be the 19th year that the event has been held.
Over the years, it has raised about $1.5 million for the Boys and Girls Club. That equates to helping a lot of kids. “We serve about 2,500 kids a year, and over the 20 years that we have been open, we have had 57,000 members,” Fisher said.
A committee of 12 folks have been working hard to plan this year’s event. A total of 24 restaurants will be featured at the venue, each offering samples for all attendees to taste. Another 15 wine vendors will also be there and several beer companies.
Each restaurant will provide 1,000 samples so that all of the attendees can taste the specialties that evening. “We are extremely grateful to the sponsors, the contributors and the restaurants. I know over the years this has grown, and 1,000 samples for the restaurants and wine vendors is a lot, but it wouldn’t be possible without all of them,” Fisher said. A live auction begins at 8:30 p.m.
There also will be a silent auction with about 80 items. Bidding goes from 6 p.m. until about 8 p.m. A raffle also will be held. This year there will be jewelry toss, sponsored by Koehn & Koehn. Also, engraved whiskey bottles will be available for purchase.
The hope is to raise $150,000 to $160,000 at the event this year. That equates to about 20 percent of the organization’s annual budget. “We are really thankful to everyone who helps out. All the money that we make that night goes right back to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Washington County,” Fisher said.
When the Taste of Washington County first started 19 years ago, the event used only about a fourth of the pavilion at the Fair Park, according to Fisher. There were about 200 to 300 people who attended at that time. Then, about 10 to 12 years ago, the whole place was opened up, and about 500 to 600 people attended.
About 1,000 people attended the event for the last three years. “It used to be on Thursdays, the week after Thanksgiving. We switched it to a Wednesday about three or four years ago, not because we were smarter, but because the Green Bay Packers played that Thursday night,” Fisher said.
Organizers decided they did not want to compete with the Packers game, so they switched it to a Wednesday night. “It was more crowded than it had ever been on a Thursday. Plus all the restaurants were happy because they are not as busy on Wednesdays as they are on Thursdays,” Fisher said. So the Taste of Washington County has been held on Wednesday evenings ever since.
“It has become something people look forward to every year,” Fisher stated. Attendees dress in business casual attire for the affair and sample some of the best foods restaurants offer in the county. Each guest receives a wine glass to keep.
The Boys & Girls Club pays for the glasses, as well as rent for the facility. The rest of the expenses are donated. “We are very fortunate to have so many in the community helping us,” Fisher said. To give back to the restaurants, gift certificates for the participating restaurants can be purchased.
The certificates are valued at $25, but cost only $20 at the event. The Boys & Girls Club pays the other $5. “People can come and get their Christmas gifts here,” Fisher said. “It really is a cool night.” A limited number of tickets are still available.
They can be purchased for $45 from participating McDonald’s in West Bend, Hartford and Jackson, or from Jeff’s Spirits on Main in West Bend.