By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Munchers — We’ve got one ticket left over from last Saturday’s Taste of Grand Island, a real one, too, not one of the sub stubs rushed in like replacement refs. By Taste of Grand Island XXV, they’ll be bidding it up on eBay.
After a four-month gestation period, this baby hit the ground sprinting. Organizer Corey McGowan estimates 3,000 to 4,000 visitors. We’d say more. They sold 50,000 tickets — fifty thousand! That’s a $25,000 gross. Only a yacht broker would call that a bad opening day.
“I’m just blown away,” Corey declared mid-week. “My wheels are spinning.”
Twice they spun off for more tickets after the original batch, marked “Taste of Grand Island,” ran out. The replacements said merely “Keep This Coupon,” like a raffle. We don’t fault Corey in any way. Basically, he’s been running this on his own dime since mid-July. We can hardly get our heads around the notion of one young man (23) staging an event of such complexity to such success on such short notice.
Nobody expected this on “the suburb with the moat.” The Village Inn’s Mike Carr brewed up 22 gallons of soup — a barrel, as they say at OPEC — and 90 sandwiches. By 4:30 p.m., with a mist gently moistening the throng, he was erasing the last of his whiteboard. We got his last order of butternut squash soup, still steaming as we maneuvered it home, appetizer to an all-Taste supper including a Riverstone beef “slider” (with an onion ring) and a double order of dumplings from Serene Garden, which was a little hard to find.
Yes, there was that weather thing, 50-ish, one of those days diagnosed as “the grey sickness.” Perfect, to our way of thinking – dry enough to make 3,500 new friends, but too dismal to work in the yard or go leaf-peeping. Corey, already planning next year’s, is considering an earlier date but we think this weekend, after Columbus Day and Canadian Thanksgiving, borders on the ideal. How many “October Surprises” (Oct. 13, 2006) can befall one lifetime?
Corey recruited parents, friends and high schoolers to assist. Virtually every restaurant was Island-based. We watched a guy at Just Pizza with a dozen boxes on his head, in the style of an Island more tropical. Intense community involvement may have accounted for its unqualified success, rather like a middle-school musical with a cast of 100.
We recommend a small guide locating each server, produced or sponsored by Ship-It on Whitehaven Road, and suggest discouraging such misleading lures as “Come and meet Flo” (Progressive Insurance’s terminally pert sales rep) unless you have the real thing there. And keep it “All-Island.” We can handle it. This has been the start of something big, and we have the perfect souvenir.
Come visit, before next October.
Polly and Doug E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org