Tasha-Leigh Allen of Kaneohe, Oahu hopped a flight to Kauai just for the Rotary Club of Kapaa’s 26th annual Taste of Hawaii on Sunday.
“We’re food critics, and we heard about this being one of the big food events,” said Allen, who was joined by a group of friends from Kaneohe. “We had to come and check it out.”
Allen was one of hundreds of people who basked in the warm sun to enjoy the food and beverage offerings of vendors amidst the garden setting of Smith’s Tropical Paradise during the fundraising event.
Last year, the Rotary Club of Kapaa raised more than $45,000 to benefit the Kauai community through the organization’s various vocational, community and scholarship gifts.
“I don’t know if we sold more tickets than last year, but I know the ticket sales were good,” said Vicky Matsuoka, who, along with Rene Tokuda, was monitoring the silent auction area. “There are a lot of people here.”
The Rotary Club of Kauai gets help from community organizations including the Interact Club of Kapaa High School, the Mokihana Aquatics swim club, John Kaneholani and the community basketball program and others, including the Boys and Girls Club, Lihue and Kapaa Clubhouse.
Joan Kealalio, advisor for the Interact Club said she had two dozen volunteers signed up for the morning shift and another two dozen scheduled for the afternoon shift. Crowds mingled and ate to their heart’s content from late morning to early afternoon.
Elaina Omana said this was her first time enjoying the event.
“I used to work for Olympic Cafe at this event,” Omana said. “This is the first time I get to come and enjoy it without working.”
Kristine Ichikawa of Kawaii Cupcake said this is the second year they are participating as a vendor. They offered cakes in every flavor, from blackberry, cranberry, lychee rose water, yuzu lavendar, dark chocolate and even green tea flavors.
“Last year, our first year, we ended being voted Best Dessert and Best Overall,” Ichikawa said. “That is big for this event. This year, we’re trying to better that.”
Antonio Palomaras, meanwhile, general manager of Kauai Grill, sabered open 31 champagne bottles during the event, good for a world record.
Albert Genovia of E-Z Livin’, a group offering entertainment to the waiting crowd, said they’ve been supporting the Taste of Hawaii from the original days when the event started in the Coco Palms Resort.
“We’ve been with them for every event,” Genovia said. “We started from the first one at Coco Palms, and we’re still here.”