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The Taste of the Western Reserve

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Aurora – The Rotary Club of Aurora was chartered in June of 2000. Rotary Clubs traditionally hold fundraiser events to provide funds to finance its various projects, locally, nationally and internationally. As a new club, we had to create a fundraiser. We had little experience. One member had experienced a fundraiser in Grand Rapids, MI called the Taste of the Chamber. The Chamber of Commerce invited all its food related members to present samples to a “Business after Hours” event held at a very nice local museum. It proved to be a success there and our club decided to hold the Taste of Aurora as our first major fundraiser. The first event was held in 2001 at The Bertram Inn. The Bertram generously donated the space. There were eleven local restaurants offering tasty delights to the crowd of 250 ticket purchasers, much better interest than we expected. Four local artists displayed their artwork and the Hudson Jazz Project provided musical entertainment. This first event netted $4,800 for Rotary scholarships and projects. The second Taste of Aurora was also held at the Bertram and introduced a silent auction to the event, a significant improvement to the revenue opportunity. Eight restaurants participated and it was another financial success. The third Taste changed venue to Independence Village and the fourth event moved to Our Lady of Perpetual Help church. It netted $13,100 and featured the energetic musical group, Focus, entertaining from the church balcony. Attendance had climbed to 264 and the church was so crowded that the fifth returned to The Bertram. Eighteen restaurants participated, helping to net $16,000. Attendance grew to 373, straining the facility space. Sponsorships were offered in this fifth year, significantly adding to the revenue received. Sponsorships continued to be sold in subsequent years. 2006 saw the Taste of Aurora move to the Signature of Solon. Increasing attendance forced a move to provide adequate space. Restaurants increased to 20, and this first year at Signature of Solon, attendance dropped slightly to 346 and net revenue to $11,800. In 2008 net revenue was $17,500 once again on attendance of 415. This success continued through 2011. Maximum attendance occurred in 2009 at 459 and maximum net revenue in 2011 at $19,500. Attendance has been over 400 for the last 5 years, limiting the locations, which can comfortably host this large crowd. In 2007 a raffle ticket sale was introduced. Raffle tickets were sold during the dining session for a drawing to find a winner of a major item. Big screen TV’s proved to be an attraction to boost raffle sales. In 2010, the Rotary Club began to sell reserved tables of 10 at a slight premium price. They have proven to be very popular and will be offered again in 2010. The taste was renamed in 2011 to The Taste of the Western Reserve to better accommodate the restaurants, which come from Aurora and beyond our boundaries. The new name has been well received. The Taste has proven to be a venerable fundraiser event and the Rotary Club of Aurora plans to continue to offer it into the future. It has become a significant social event in the spring of each year. Many people look forward to it and return every year to enjoy the gastronomical delights offered by such respected local restaurants and chefs. The funds raised by the Taste have been the source of the Rotary Club’s funding of projects. Projects include, among others: Scholarships for high school students, purchase of the police dog, Sayro, for the Aurora Police Department, support of childhood AIDS home for orphans in Africa, water wells in Africa and Latin America, a tool shed for Leighton School, computers for a Latin America school and food donations to The Volunteers of America food bank in Aurora. In 2012, The Taste of the Western Reserve will be held at Signature of Solon from 4-7pm on April 29. Tickets are $35 per person in advance, $40 at the door, and reserved tables for 10 are available for $400. Ticket information is available from Dick Garner, 330 562-9543.