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First Taste of Cape Coral a huge success

Turnout double what was anticipated

February 11, 2014
By Chuck Ballaro ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

When you combine two great events into one, as organizers did with the city's first Taste of Cape Coral at Four Freedoms Park on Sunday, you end up with a gargantuan success.

Maybe even a tad too successful.

Organizers expected attendance to be between 3,000 and 3,500 people. A crowd of about 7,000 showed up.

By 5 p.m. many of the 20 restaurants that took part had run out of food, as food and music lovers alike lined up for some "tasty" fare to whet their appetite for an al fresco sunset concert provided by the Gulf Coast Symphony.

"It was great," said Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce President Mike Qaintance of the fundraiser's turnout. "Both the (chamber) Education Committee and the symphony were very happy."

Marta Vanderstarre, marketing director with the Gulf Coast Symphony, said the orchestra has done its sunset concert for the past six years with the help from the Cape Coral Community Foundation and the South Cape Community Redevelopment Agency.

The symphony had always thought of expanding the event, and combining it with the taste event was the perfect way to do it since they already had the structure of the concert in place.

"The Chamber of Commerce wanted to do a 'taste' event and it was more than they were ready to take on," Vanderstarre said. "We had an existing event, let's add this to it."

The proceeds were split between the Chamber's Education Committee scholarship fund and the Symphony's outreach programs to bring music education to local students.

And with the huge crowd, that meant a long busy afternoon for the 20 establishments that set up along the north end of the park in a long tent, not to mention a lucrative day for the charities.

That was OK with Dirk Atherton, owner of Iguana Mia, who not only had a food, but a margarita stand, where all the money went the charities.

"It's a brand new event and we wanted to do what we could to help out great charitable causes," Atherton said. "It's gone great. We sold about 600 margaritas (by 3:30 p.m.)."

Many, like Aji Limon, were surprised at how popular the first-time event was.

"It was a surprise for us. We sold everything early," said owner Jorge Rouillo. "Next time, we should make three times more food."

Those who came too late for food could still enjoy a beverage and listen to the symphony perform.

"I went with a mix, but decided to theme it based on this being a food and a party," said symphony music director John Wesley Strickler. "I'm trying to have fun with the concept of food and wine and that this is a big outdoor celebration."

And whether you lived in the Cape or lived 1,000 miles away, it was an event many enjoyed.

"The food was really good and the orchestra is doing really good," said Lily Null of Cape Coral, who was there with her friend, Sandy Gibson. "I had the salmon and it was really good, then I had the snapper at the Monkey Bar. We have some great restaurants here."

"It was a nice day, great food. We had a sandwich at Crust Pizza and it was out of this world," said Judy Duwel, who was on vacation from Cincinnati. "I wish the symphony was louder. We'll bring chairs next year and sit closer.

Organizers were happy as well.

"This is proof that our residents and visitors will come out to support these events. It's a gorgeous day, so that gets people out anyway," said CRA chairwoman and city council member Rana Erbrick.



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