As the temperature (finally) starts to rise, there are few better ways to kick off the summer than to head out to Point Defiance Park for Tacoma’s annual celebration of food, fun, music and art. Emerald Queen Casino’s Taste of Tacoma takes place June 29 to July 1, featuring free admission and a chance to sample some of the region’s most unique cuisine.
This year’s highlights include 29 restaurant booths and more than 20 food product companies offering samples of the best dishes they have to offer, from adventurous options – think alligator on a stick – to good old-fashioned festival fare such as fried Twinkies.
This year the festival will feature a craft beer garden, offering high-end locally made brews and hometown favorites such as Silver City Brewery, Killian’s Irish Red, Harmon Brewing Co. and Blue Moon Brewing Co.
Happy Hour pricing goes into effect each day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with $1 off any beer, or $3 off a wine tasting starter package, which normally runs up to $15 for a souvenir glass and five tasting tickets. A live music stage will also be located in the Rose Garden, where some of the area’s premier jazz musicians will perform.
A variety of musical performances and entertainment will take place on six stages, including a 21-and-over comedy stage featuring regional acts.
For those counting their calories, have no fear – this year’s event, much like past years, will feature healthy options that will not undo diets. Each restaurant will offer a Hope Heart Right Bite menu item featuring reduced fat and/or calories, and many of these options sound just as appealing as the rest. “There are some really great items we’ll be offering this year,” said Media Director Cindy Stohr. “People do not need to worry about blowing all their calories in the matter of a couple hours.”
Billy McHale’s is offering Rite Bite grilled pesto prawn skewers, and Mario Brothers Cheesesteak is offering healthy sandwiches featuring veggies, mushrooms, onions and peppers.
Of course, traditional fried favorites will also be available – keep an eye out for Trophy Spice’s elk cheeseburger, and Frandy Bar’s deep fried candy bars.
Although many restaurants setting up shop at Taste of Tacoma are local, others are located around the state and as far away as Oregon. “It’s important to us to make sure we’re offering the consumer a good variety of foods to try,” Stohr explained. “The food truly takes center stage at Taste of Tacoma.”
A percentage of profits from wine and beer sales benefit the culinary arts program at Bates Technical College. Since organizers began donating money to the program a few years ago, it has funded four scholarships. “We appreciate, respect and support the programs that are making sure culinary arts is a vocation people are still getting into,” Stohr said. “We loving promoting and highlighting the hard work of these chefs, vendors and restaurateurs.”
Organizers expect more than 225,000 visitors this year. Stohr said sponsors Emerald Queen Casino and Boeing Employees Credit Union (BECU) have been instrumental in ensuring Taste of Tacoma remains a free family event. “For 12 years, Emerald Queen has been such a great partner for us, and we couldn’t do it without their support,” she said.
The Taste of Tacoma is open Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.tasteoftacoma.com
Join Cowgirls Dream, a Tacoma Americana band, at EQC Taste of Tacoma July 30 at 1 p.m. at the Country/blues Roadhouse Stage. The newest bent on a time-worn tradition of country swing music is Cowgirl’s Dream, a Tacoma-based band created with the debut of Kristi Nebel's album “DETOUR.” Kristi brings her years of love in performing this music to her lead singing, with back-up harmonies from Steve Nebel.
Toby Hanson, accordionist lends his skills in arranging tunes as well as playing them. His background as the young founder of the Smiling Scandinavians band, Hanson brings his musical expertise from studies at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle.
The band also features Tacoman Mike Friel, who boasts years of local dance drumming experience. Rounding out the sound are the rhythm and lead guitar and bass of Steve Nebel and Kristi Nebel, whose band Pressure Ridge has performed all over the Pacific Northwest for the past 25 odd years.
The songs the band plays have been familiar to country dancers for three generations of Americans from sea to shining sea. The group also lends some original songs to the mix. For more information on the band, visit
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