Q: Where can you taste appetizers, entrees and desserts from a number of Lakeland area restaurants – all in one location and on a single night?
A: The Taste of the North.
Hosted by the Minocqua Area Chamber Ambassadors, this year’s Taste of the North is slated for Thursday, April 25, 6-9 p.m., at The Waters of Minocqua.
“It really is a great local, social event, whether you’re one of the restaurant owners, one of the helpers, or somebody who is enjoying the event,” Vickie Shughart, chamber ambassador, said. “We truly go out of our way to make sure they’re enjoying the event.”
Tickets are $25 each and are available at the Minocqua chamber, Trig’s and Save More Marketplace. With only 300-350 tickets available, they go fast and always sell out.
Proceeds from Taste of the North will go toward the chamber ambassador’s scholarship fund as well as local nonprofit organizations.
“We just want to promote the area and promote the businesses in the area, and help the younger people get a start,” Barb Wagoner, chamber ambassador, said. “It’s important for us to give back to the community, because that’s what brings people here.”
The categories for Taste of the North are entrees, sandwiches, appetizers, pizza, and desserts, and there will be an extra award given out this year.
“There’s always the People’s Choice and judge’s first place, and now we’re doing honorable mention,” Sally Winger, chamber ambassador said.
In addition to the wide spread of food, there will also be raffles at Taste of the North.
“The raffle prizes are great. That’s part of the fundraiser for the scholarship fund. It’s all for a good cause,” Winger said.
This year Trig’s is sponsoring the upper level of the event and Save More Marketplace is sponsoring the lower level.
“We see it as a good event for the community and we want to be behind things like this,” Jim Gauden, general manager of Save More, said. “It’s also a way for us to show support to all the other local businesses in town.”
Last year Trig’s was the primary sponsor for Taste of the North and is continuing its support again this year because, as store director Tom Chandler said in a previous interview, “Trig’s likes to get their arms in the community.”
An event by the community,
for the community
Sandy Kilkenny is credited with the idea for Taste of the North. Though she has since passed away, the chamber ambassadors continue to carry on her dream.
“It was her dream to see an event like this come together where you can showcase the different Northwoods restaurants. A lot of the time people that come to the event don’t even know that these restaurants are in the community,” Shughart said.
Since its inception, Taste of the North has grown in popularity every year, and requests for tickets come from as far as Milwaukee and Illinois.
“It’s always a sellout,” Winger said. “We probably could sell more tickets, but we don’t have the room.”
Though it’s grown to be a favorite among visitors of the area, Northwoods residents also look forward to Taste of the North.
“I can’t tell you how excited the locals are when this comes around,” Shughart said. “It’s just unbelievable the compliments that you get.”
Restaurant and business owners are just as enthusiastic for Taste of the North as guests of the event.
“I just think it’s a great fundraiser for the ... area,” Rita Mazur, owner of Blue Bayou restaurant, said. Blue Bayou of Manitowish Waters has been featured in Taste of the North for every year but one. “They’re not only promoting Minocqua business, they’re promoting the Northwoods area. It shows you what great food we have in the Northwoods. There’s more than just steaks and potatoes and fish fries.”
Chuck and Chris Stoker, owner of Northern Cafe, are also consistent participants of the event. This will be their fifth year of showcasing some of their restaurant’s dishes.
“What a fantastic way for the community to get just a little sample of what all these area restaurants are all about,” Chuck said. “It really is a learning experience for the community to get a chance to get to know the area restaurants.”
For Scott Merrill, general manager of Papa Murphy’s, last year was his first time participating in Taste of the North, and it became a family affair for him.
“It was a lot of fun. I was kind of short-handed on staff, so I recruited my wife and our seven-year-old son to help out. He was six at the time, but he got all dressed up in the Papa Murphy’s apron and shirt and hat, and went back and forth hauling pizza,” Merrill said. “I thought it was great being able to get my family involved with it. My little guy will probably be put to work at it again this year.”
Though countless hours of planning are dedicated to organizing Taste of the North, it’s always worth it for the Chamber Ambassadors.
“It takes a lot of work to put this together, but once those last people have picked up their tickets and are inside, it’s like, ‘We did it,’” Shughart said.
“It’s so fun though,” Wagoner agreed. “We really enjoy it.
For more information, call the Minocqua Chamber of Commerce at 715-356-5266.
Sarah Hirsch may be reached at email@example.com