UNIVERSITY PARK Mike Benjamin looked at Sunday’s Taste of the Town as a win-win.
He was able to promote his catering business, Benjamin’s, and, more importantly, he said, give back to the community. He has participated in the evening for the past six or seven years.
“It’s always good,” he said. “We always like to make an effort for community events.”
The dinner event is in its 16th year, and all raised funds now go toward the Centre County United Way, founder and co-chairwoman Peggy Lynn Walk-Erlich said. The money used to go to The AIDS Project of Centre County, but when that effort folded for lack of state funding, the United Way stepped in.
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The night drew more than 300 people to The Penn State Conference Center Hotel to taste food from about 30 local restaurants and bakeries, and bid on items in live and silent auctions. Walk-Erlich said she hopes to raise more than $20,000, to eclipse last year’s total.
Attendees paid an entrance price of $50 for charity, down from $75 in previous years. Co-Chairwoman Lisa Rittenhouse said they wanted to lower the price to open up the event to more people. “We want this to be a community event,” she said. “We want everyone to come enjoy it.”
Walk-Erlich added that the businesses love participating and some have been there every year of the event.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit opened this year and jumped at the chance to show support and build its brand, General Manager Matt Firth said.
The Texas-based franchise is looking to get a foothold in the State College area, and Firth said that building community relationships, attending events and giving people a chance to try their food is a way to do that.
He said business on Benner Pike is going well so far and they are excited to get be able to go to more events and cater for people.
And it was a good chance for the attendees to eat a variety of food.
Robin and Russell Barton have been in the State College area for 23 years and thought that they had seen it all in terms of food, but at their first Taste of the Town, they were surprised to see some new places and get to try some old favorites.
Robin Barton, who said she was most looking forward to the food from Kelly’s Steak and Seafood, said the event is a chance to give back and have a fun night out with family.