By Gary Nager
The New Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Tampa Palms Professional Center and Primrose School of Tampa Palms are proud to announce that the 20th annual Taste of New Tampa & Business Expo will be held Sunday, March 24, noon-6 p.m.
The Taste, New Tampa’s signature one-day event, has been held in a variety of locations from Tampa Palms to Wesley Chapel the last 19 years, but had been staged at either Freedom High or the New Tampa Community Park in Tampa Palms or at Wharton High on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. the last several years.
But, events held at schools and community parks located adjacent to schools can not serve alcohol, and to once again be able to offer beer and wine to Taste attendees was one of the priorities of the Chamber’s Board of Directors for the 20th milestone event.
“This Board and others before it also hoped to find a location that might be able to become a permanent site for the event in years to come,” says Regina Ramalheira, the new Board president. “And, we also considered the possibility of expanding the Taste to a two-day event featuring headline entertainment and a Battle of the Bands.”
And, the Chamber is well on its way to making most of those ideas into a reality. The Tampa Palms Professional Center and Primrose School & Park, which are self-contained on Primrose Lake Cir. off Commerce Park Blvd., offer a location that is not only large enough to handle a greatly expanded event, it’s also a location which offers the benefit of potential temporary wet zoning, as well as plenty of parking and a plaza that normally sees very little traffic on the weekends (the SpringHill Suites by Marriott hotel and St. Andrew Presbyterian Church located in the center are the only exceptions).
After discussions with Gar Urette of the professional center and Richard and Jana Radtke of the Primrose School, the Chamber Board opted to move the event to a Sunday afternoon, expand it from the usual three to six full hours, locate all of the Taste exhibitors and activities inside the park and add both a Battle of the Bands and, if possible, a true headline entertainment act to the festivities. The details about the entertainment will be announced as they are firmed up, but if anyone who reads this has access to any headline national or even top-level local entertainers, you’re asked to call Jayne Baker at the Chamber office at 293-2464.
The number of restaurants participating in the Taste has dropped over the last few years, in no small part due to the change in the local economy, which has made it more and more difficult for mom-and-pop restaurants, in particular, to afford to give away an average of 1,500 “tastes” without receiving anything in return other than, they hope, quite a few new customers.
So, when the Board invited me to be the chairman of this year’s Taste, as I had several previous years, I said that I would be less interested in re-taking control of the event if the Board was unwilling to get these restaurant owners something more than just a nice picture in our Taste follow-up issue.
To that end, the Board agreed to reduce the admission price from $15 (in advance) or $20 (day of) per adult (and kids over age 12) all the way down to just $5 per adult in advance and $10 the day of the Taste. It also will cost $1 per Taste Ticket to sample each restaurant’s samplings or to purchase tastes of beer or wine, and the ticket proceeds will be split 50-50 with each restaurant. In other words, if a restaurant collects 1,000 tickets during the Taste, it will be reimbursed $500. The individual restaurants/beverage suppliers will determine the number of Taste Tickets they will charge for each of their own samples, as well as the size of each sample they give away.