Volunteers bring fresh energy to Taste of South Routt

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The Taste of South Routt is scheduled for noon to 6 p.m. June 27 at Decker Park in Oak Creek. Vendor applications are due May 31 and are available at Bonfiglio Drug in Oak Creek and Montgomery's General Merchandise in Yampa. Event organizers are looking for volunteers to help with setting up, taking tickets and other jobs on the day of the event. For more information or to volunteer, call event co-chair Julie Hoff at 736-2323.

— Toward the end of March, Stagecoach resident Julie Hoff went to a meeting of the South Routt Economic Development Council to talk about the Taste of South Routt.

Hoff had planned to express her support for continuing the event and offer a partnership with Colorado Northwestern Community College where she works as the South Routt Center coordinator.

She left as the new event co-chair for a reinvigorated Taste of South Routt, an event she had attended for years but never had volunteered with.

The event's future came into question at a February meeting of the EDC; Bonfiglio Drug owner David Bonfiglio and the few people who had organized the tasting for years were worn out, and Taste of South Routt needed some new blood to continue.

"Someone needed to do it, and David has done a really great job for a lot of years. It's a really fun thing, and I didn't want it go away," Hoff said. Bonfiglio is working with Hoff in an advisory role as an event co-chair this year and said he plans to stay involved in future Tastes.

The June 27 festival will have the same setup as in years past: South Routt businesses and organizations are invited to bring food, merchandise or information to share with and sell to the public. Live music, a beer garden and a silent auction complement the vendors. It's a chance for local businesses to showcase what they do, whether that's providing a product as a restaurant or a community service as a nonprofit group, Hoff said.

Renewed energy

Taste of South Routt started 12 years ago by the then-owners of The Colorado Bar & Grill and Chelsea's as a forum to highlight local restaurants. When those owners sold their businesses, Bonfiglio, who was EDC president at the time, took charge of festival planning, he said.

"It was either we took it on or it died, and we thought it was worth it to keep it going," he said. Since then, the Taste of South Routt has grown into a sort of community cookout, attracting non-restaurant businesses and local organizations.

Throughout the years, the months of logistical planning needed to organize the event started to weigh on Bonfiglio and the four or so people on his team, including EDC secretary Karen Tussey.

"It is exhausting," Tussey said about helping plan the event for four years. "It's a great day and full of fun and people and everything, but, oh my gosh, it's exhausting when it's just a few of us."

Hoff said she has a group of about 10 people who have "stepped up and volunteered to do the nitty-gritty dirt part." The entertainment is scheduled, and applications are ready for interested vendors. Those fresh faces could keep the festival on track for the next 10 years, Bonfiglio said.

"The new energy of the new volunteers who are taking a piece of the puzzle on their own and kind of running with it is going to allow it to be more vibrant and add energy that was hard for the old guard to maintain," he said.

Taste of South Routt brings South Routt residents together around food, music and friends; it serves two main purposes, Bonfiglio said.

"One, it's a great venue for exposure for local businesses to the public. But I would say equally important, it is a giveback by the businesses to the community as a thank you from year-round businesses for keeping us in business," he said.

Admission for Taste of South Routt is $1 at the gate and is free for children younger than 12. Gate proceeds go to the EDC to fund a South Routt business directory and a scholarship for a graduating Soroco High School senior. Beer proceeds help fund future events.

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