Wine-tasting wasn’t on Bree McRae’s list of events that she would typically call her style, but when a friend offered her tickets to the Rotary Club’s A Taste of Stettler event this past Friday, she decided to say yes.
By the end of the night, though, McRae vowed she’d be back the following year.
“I like how you get to meet a lot of people, and see what’s in the community,” McRae said, referring to the vendors found at the event on Friday, May 1, at the Stettler Community Hall.
“I didn’t know a lot of these places existed,” she added.
Now in its fifth year, the annual event has become one of Rotary Stettler’s largest fundraisers in the year.
“Every year it gets bigger and better,” Peter Boys, a member of the club, said. He had been to several wine-tasting events in other communities and thought it would be a good choice for Stettler, so helped bring the event here five years ago.
While the Jazz Guys performed on stage, event-goers circled the room, drifting from table to table, sampling different wines, beers, and liquors as well as cuisine from local restaurants and stores.
For those sampling the food and drinks, the event wasn’t just a perfect chance to socialize, but also to try new palatal experiments without the financial investments on something they may not enjoy.
“I’ve tried so many things tonight,” McRae said. “Some of these things I’d never spend money on, because if I didn’t like them I’d be out the money.”
For vendors, it’s a great chance to lure in those who might have been hesitant in the past, as well as offer up rarer purchased items for taste-testing. It’s also a good time to try out recipes and see what works and what doesn’t.
Rob Foote, a food expert at Sobeys, created a desert using some less mainstream cheeses and flavouring for the night. The mascapone and balsamic dressing treat, in a little wafer cup, was adorned with a slice of grape, and was a popular bite-sized treat.
“No one really knew what to do with (the dressing),” Foote said of the Italissima Crema balsamic dressing.
Local abbatoir and smokehouse Forestburg Meats had a table adjacent to the stage, giving them not only an excellent venue for enjoying the music, but an easy to access booth, unencumbered by nearby tables.
There, owners Gordon and Gary Poole, provided a selection of smoked meat from their storefront.
“It’s our first time here at Taste of Stettler,” Gordon Poole said. “People know we’re an abattoir, but we also have a nice little smokehouse, and have a great selection in our storefront.”
He, like McRae, said one of the benefits of the event was having people try the products available without having to pay out of wallet, other than the cost of a ticket.
Over the years, the type of drinks – and the interest in them – has changed. Ricky DeCorby, with Sleeman Breweries, had craft beer options from the Okanagan Microbrewery.
“Last year I brought several cases, and I just took them all back,” she said. This year, though, people were really into sampling the different lagers and ales she had available.
“A lot of people stick with what their parents and grandparents drink,” she noted. “This is a great way to find a new drink you like without having to spend a lot.”
Scott Pfeiffer, president of Rotary Stettler, agrees, and noted this year’s Taste of Stettler was all but sold out.
“Each year it gets bigger and bigger,” he said.
With the earthquake and widespread destruction and death in Nepal, the event was a perfect time for Rotary to introduce people to Shelter Box, one of the international charities Rotary clubs around the world support.
Rotary has already dropped 1,000 of these shelter boxes – they include a tent and a box of equipment like cooking utensils, bedding and so forth – in Nepal to help the thousands displaced by the earthquake.
Another big effort for Rotary is the eradication of polio, Pfeiffer said.
“One vaccination costs 60 cents,” he said. “Only three countries today really still have polio. We’re close to eliminating it.”
The Rotary club also sponsors exchange students. Currently, Taiwan’s Grace Wu is living with a foster family in the community, and Stettler’s Meghan Larose is in Taiwan.
The spray park in West Stettler Park, the whirlpool at the pool, and the seating area with the fireplace at the library are three areas in which Rotary has contributed locally. It also helps with the Food Bank, Handi-Bus, Skate Park, Variety Showcase, Heartland Youth Center, football and more deserving options in the community.
Last year’s event raised roughly $6,500 and is on course to raise roughly the same amount this year, Boys said.