Second Taste of Estero offers more food, more shade

Taste of Estero

-- What: Live music, children’s play area and food from more than 20 local vendors

-- When: Sunday, May 3, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

-- Where: Estero Community Park, 9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd., Estero

-- Information: 248-1609 or www.tasteofestero.com

The Estero-Gulf Coast Kiwanis Club’s first Taste of Estero was more successful than anticipated last year, but this year the festival is set to be even bigger, said Mike Wobrock, the event’s founder and chair.

There will be more food, more shade and, hopefully, more people.

“Last year we didn’t know what we didn’t know,” said Wobrock. “It was new to us, but everything went well and the crowd certainly exceeded what we anticipated.”

While organizers were hoping that 5,000 would attend last year’s event, the Lee Sheriff’s Department estimated that the crowd reached a highpoint of 8,000, said Wobrock. About 10,000 food lovers attended throughout the day.

The Kiwanis Club learned from the experience.

“We’ll do some small things differently, like the location of the ticket sales,” said Wobrock. “Last year was the hottest day of the year up to that point, so we learned we needed more tent areas.”

The festival is an ambitious undertaking for the Estero-Gulf Coast Kiwanis, one of the newer and smaller Kiwanis club’s in Southwest Florida.

Founded just four years ago, the group has fewer than 20 paying members.

“We are a small group but we’re a little unique in that many of our members our in their twenties, thirties and forties,” said Wobrock. “We’re kind of a younger club, but we’re pretty ambitious.”

Club members had been looking for a signature yearly event to sponsor when Wobrock thought of Taste of Estero.

“I have been in the area for 27 years and had attended Taste of Bonita, Taste of Collier and a lot of the different events,” he said. “We knew that Estero was coming into its own, so we’d better do it before some other group beat us to it.”

With just a 12-member festival organizing committee, the club is relying on friends and family members to volunteer.

In a poor economy, many restaurants have closed or cut expenses, and corporate sponsorship is down this year, said Wobrock.

But the event is still gaining momentum, attracting an expected 25 restaurants to participate this year, compared to just 19 in 2008.

This year’s lineup includes a wider variety of local restaurants and foods, everything from Jets Pizza and City Smoke Barbecue to Big Hickory Fishing Nook and Beef O’Brady’s.

“And we have a real good lineup of local entertainment this year,” said Wobrock.

Alter Ego, Geek Squad and A200 will each play 90-minute sets, providing almost five hours of live music starting at 11:30 a.m.

A children’s play area will include bounce houses and a rock-climbing wall. There will also be clowns, face painting and other activities.

Proceeds from the event go to the club’s educational endowment at Florida Gulf Coast University, as well as to local causes. Last year, Interfaith Caregivers and Pinewood Elementary benefited.

“We understand things are tight, our sponsorship dollars haven’t been the best and people might not want to spend as much this year,” said Wobrock. “A lot depends on how much we bring in, but we’re excited.”

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