After a year of doing virtually nothing, June is proving to be a busy month in Somerset.
It began with Foodstock, continued last weekend with Juneteenth, and this Thursday, June 24, A Sample of Somerset returns to its downtown digs on the Judicial Center Plaza to serve up a smorgasbord of sweet and savory scrumptiousness.
Organizer Wynona Padgett of the Somerset Junior Woman's Club (SJWC), which is presenting the event with the Don Franklin Somerset Family of Dealerships, noted that this would be the fifth edition of the event in its current form, sponsored primarily by the non-profit SJWC, but as with most everything else, COVID-19 restrictions forced Sample of Somerset to take a year off.
The SJWC is responding by making sure they provide plenty of exposure not just for local purveyors of food and drink, but other organizations in the community as well.
"We are so excited about it this year especially because we've invited a lot of non-profits to join us," said Padgett. "We're happy to give them an outlet, and raise a little money at this event as well."
Those who have been before will find this year's model a familiar experience: One sample ticket costs a dollar, or buy 12 for $10 and get a bundle discount. You've got to have a ticket to get a sample, one per each, but if you just want to come and browse the non-profits and artists that will be on hand — as well as fun inflatables for kids — it's free to enter.
This year, 16 tasting partners — that's the name for the people you get the food from — are scheduled to take part in A Sample of Somerset. Some are familiar faces at the event, some are "eateries that we've never had before," noted Padgett.
New entries include Pollo Feliz, ProTrade Hardware (featuring Traeger Grills), Downtown Deli, Slim Chickens, Freeze-Dried Bites, Koffee Pig, the newly-managed Cellar at the John Sherman Cooper Community Arts Center, Chick-fil-A, and Buffalo Wings & Rings.
Returnees include Kroger Marketplace/Murray's Cheese, Somerset Sweeterie, Pepsi Cola, Gold Star Chili, Sassy Spoon Catering, Diamondz and Divaz Catering, and We B Poppin.
Padgett noted that they'd like to have more actual restaurants involved, but "we understand it's a difficult time for" them, she noted, regarding staffing issues. To help with that, ladies from the SKYHope Recovery Center in Somerset are volunteering to provide assistance to participating restaurants at the event if needed.
While it's exciting to have so many newcomers on board, Padgett is also appreciative of "old favorites" like Sassy Spoon, Diamondz and Divaz, and Pepsi, "who have been with us for years."
The gates open at 5 p.m. and sampling begins at 5:30 p.m. Padgett urged people to get there early, because tasting partners may run out of product — "and when they're out, they're out," she said. "You may miss out on someone you really wanted to sample."
The sampling goes on until 8 p.m., but the event actually lasts until 8:30 p.m. to provide more time for visiting non-profits and artists present.
Providing live music is the band Coyote Waits, who performed this past weekend at June Jam in Burnside. "They've never played at out event before," she said of the act with a bluesy sound. "They called and offered to play at our event, and we're tickled that they're able to play with us."
Cash, checks, or credit/debit cards are all accepted to buy tasting tickets at the event Thursday.
All money from tasting tickets goes to benefit the holiday-based Operation Angel Care project, to help SJWC members buy gifts for local youngsters whose names aren't pulled from Angel Trees by members of the community.
"We had about 950 kids on the list last year, and I know that economically, things aren't much better this year, so we can expect that many or more," said Padgett. "Every penny we raise will really make a difference."
People are encouraged to bring lawn chairs for seating, as there isn't any available at the plaza.
The event's silver sponsor is Performance Food Service.
Free bottles of water from Somerset Wilbert Vault will be available.
While the yummy food is certainly the highlight of every Sample of Somerset, it's also another chance to come together as neighbors and break bread — so to speak.
"One of the things people enjoy about this event is that it's low-key," said Padgett. "People can enjoy mingling with friends and supporting folks in their own community."