'A Sample of Somerset' offers an variety of flavors for a good cause

File Photo i CJ

Texas Roadhouse Managing Partner Joe Hamlet fires up the grill at a past "Sample of Somerset" event. This year's chance to taste the flavors of various restaurants around town for a good cause is scheduled for this Thursday, June 6, at 5:30 p.m.

Sample flavor. Sample creativity. Sample Somerset.

The always-popular tasting event for charity, "A Sample of Somerset," returns this Thursday to the Judicial Center Plaza downtown, and organizers are busy rounding up all the local culinary characters due to participate.

The event has become a local tradition that people look forward to near the start of summer, It's the fourth year for "Sample of Somerset" by the Somerset Junior Woman's Club (SJWC), with several years before that seeing a similar event sponsored by another organization, and it's all for a good cause.

"People really enjoy it," said organizer Wynona Padgett. "They get to try different foods they haven't tried before, and get to have some of their favorites as well."

The idea behind "Sample" is simple: Tickets cost a dollar each, or get a bargain by buying 12 for $10. Then take them to various booths set up around the plaza operated by various restaurants and food service providers around the area. In return for a ticket, they'll give you a small portion -- a sample, indeed -- of the kind of products they have to offer on a regular basis.

There are plenty of benefits for taking part, noted Padgett, including the opportunity to expose the public to offerings they might not know about yet.

"(A Sample of Somerset) gives (businesses) the chance to be out in the community and be at a location they would not normally be," said Padgett. "Hopefully they get a little extra publicity from it and hopefully get new customers.

"We encourage them to serve a sample of something new to their menu or something different," said Padgett. "(For instance,) Domino's will offer some of their bites, cinnamon bites, things of that nature, because a lot of people haven't tried those. Sonny's will sample a new type of hors d'oeuvres that they offer with catering. If Pepsi has a new drink out, they like to debut that and give it a try."

Domino's pizza and Sonny's BBQ, as Padgett mentioned, are two new participants this year, doing Sample of Somerset for the first time. Also scheduled to take part are Amon's Sugar Shack, Cracker Barrel, Diamondz and Divaz Catering, Gold Star Chili, Sassy Spoon Catering, Pepsi-Cola, SJWC cupcakes, Steak 'n Shake, Texas Roadhouse, and Zaxby's. Other tasting partners could still sign on as well.

That's at least a dozen, which is a stronger turnout than last year, showing the event continues to be on the rise in the community.

Most importantly, all the proceeds raised though ticket sales go to benefit Operation Angel Care, the SJWC project that allows children from families in need around the area to have a better Christmas by having people from the community buy presents for them. Every year, not every child's name gets picked and the SJWC members have to make up the difference. The money raised here, as the largest fundraiser for the event that the civic group has, goes a long way toward making that possible along with donations.

"We estimate between $35,000 and $40,000 is spent on Christmas gifts for kids," said Padgett. "The money usually comes back into the economy because people tend to shop locally. It's a win-win-win for everybody."

With the threat of bad weather on Thursday, Padgett said they're working on getting an alternate location where they can move inside if necessary. If that can't be secured, the event might have to be moved to another date. Padgett said a decision will be made on Wednesday about the event's status.

The event will be on Thursday, June 6, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Live musical entertainment is scheduled from Sammie and Dan Suggitt, Josh Secrest, LaMay & Reese, and Looney Tunez Entertainment with open mic opportunities. There will also be free cold bottled water from Somerset Wilbert Vault, and free inflatables and face painting (for a small fee) for kids.

The event is sponsored by the Don Franklin Somerset Family of Dealerships.

"Come out and enjoy the evening," said Padgett. "Bring a lawn chair, enjoy the music and the food and soak up the atmosphere, and help us raise much-needed money to help all the children in the community who are in need."