Reminder Assistant Editor
WILBRAHAM Giving to a good cause can be rewarding, but giving while receiving can be a lot more fun. That's the idea behind the Wilbraham Junior Women's Club "In Good Taste II" food and beverage tasting event.
Taking place March 29, the fundraiser will gather monies for the various community service projects the Junior Women's Club supports, including scholarships for local high school seniors, among other things.
"We do a lot of work not only in town but throughout Western Massachusetts," Lisa Vartanian, club member and organizer of the first "In Good Taste" event, said. "We're always willing to help."
The first food and beverage tasting event occurred two years ago. Vartanian explained that the Junior Women's Club's fundraising board came up with the idea for the event because "we constantly have to reinvent ways to raise funds and awareness in our community." She added that one of the goals of the board is to figure out what events people want to attend.
"You can only do so many bake sales and magazine sales," she joked.
The evening brings together several restaurants from the area to provide an evening of flavor for attendees. As a member of the committee in charge of gathering restaurants for this year's event, Vartanian has helped secure Horizons, Johnsen's Catering, Cafe Lebanon, Pinocchio's, Spoleto, Aldente and Edible Arrangements for a sampling of foods, along with Wilbraham Wine & Spirits for a wine tasting and Opa-Opa Brewing Company for a beer tasting.
"We've seen overwhelming support from the community and businesses," Vartanian said. "In this economic climate, you would think people would be a little reluctant to help out at an event like this, but all the restaurants have given a favorable response."
The restaurant-gathering committee asks each business to offer two menu selections of what they consider to be house specialties for the event and then the group asks for one of the dishes. Vartanian said this takes place to make sure the club doesn't have any repeat dishes at the event.
"We really appreciate their support by feeding our masses and that in turn gets them great exposure," Vartanian said.
She said the first "In Good Taste" event had a "phenomenal" turnout, completely selling out with 275 tickets sold. The event raised close to $18,000 for community service projects. The club is limiting ticket sales to 200 this year, however.
"The event last time was very successful and very entertaining," Hilda Gasteyer, club member and ticket sales representative, said.
Maribel Kane, the club member in charge of publicity for the event, agreed. "It's a huge fundraising endeavor," she told Reminder Publications. "It takes a lot of planning and coordination, but it really transforms the Community Room at the Scantic Valley YMCA into a completely different setting."
The first event saw the host location turned into a metropolitan bistro setting, complete with an enormous cut-out New York City skyline backlit by twinkling star lights.
While Kane wants this year's theme to be a surprise for those attending, she did hint that "In Good Taste II" will be "a very colorful, vibrant experience" and that the Community Room would be unrecognizable from its usual state.
"The Junior Women's Club really puts its heart and soul into this event," Kane stated, "and that's evident in the outcome, in that it's a total transformation. The club is very passionate in every event it does.
"Everyone puts a lot of time and effort into this," she continued. "This fundraiser helps up help our community."
Kane anticipates that this year's event will be a great success.
In addition to the food and beverage tasting, the evening will include live and silent auctions, a jewelry raffle and some surprises.
Tickets for "In Good Taste II" go on sale March 3 and cost $35 each. The tickets can be purchased at the Scantic Valley YMCA, located in Post Office Park, or through Gasteyer by calling 433-1686.
The event will take place March 29 from 7:30 to 10 p.m. in the Community Room of the YMCA.