By Gary Nager

The story of the 2012 Taste of New Tampa® hasn’t been completely written (as we don’t yet have an estimate of the amount of funds raised for the nonprofit school, athletic and other groups who receive donations from the proceeds of the event for providing volunteers for it), but there’s little doubt that this year’s Taste was the smallest in recent memory — in terms of both the number of restaurants and businesses participating and the number of people attending.

In previous years, the New Tampa Chamber of Commerce has boasted attendance of as many as 7,000 people or more — and almost always has approached an estimated 5,000 attendees — but at the Taste held at Paul R. Wharton High two weeks ago (on March 11), Chamber president Rachel Haviland says the attendance estimate is “surely less than 2,000. But, considering the late change of venue, the economy and threatening weather, we were really just happy that we were still able to make it happen at all.”

As reported at the top of page 1 of our last issue, Haviland and her Board

had to decide almost exactly a month before the Taste whether or not to postpone or cancel the event or move it to another location, after some issues arose with the Shops at Wiregrass mall.

“We did consider both postponing and cancelling,” Haviland said afterward. “But, when Wharton agreed to step in and hold it the same day as we had planned — after it was so successful there last year — the Board voted to move it.”

The biggest problem, other than the lower-than-usual number of restaurants and perhaps too many desserts and not enough main courses being served, was that some of the participants from previous years didn’t realize that the entire event was not going to be tented, as it always had before.

“However, the Taste paperwork and our emails to the restaurants and businesses all said that each vendor was responsible for his or her own tent this year.”

Even so, all of the food that was served was delicious, the rains never came and the 2012 Taste was still a success. We also applaud this year’s first-ever “Best of Taste” winners, most of which are pictured and mentioned on these pages. See page 18 for the “official list” and page 3 for my list of “unofficial” winners and more surprises.

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