Rotary Taste of Hawaii coming

KAPAA — Taste of Hawaii isn’t just any other fundraiser.

Ron Margolis, co-chair of the Rotary Club of Kapaa project, knows for a fact that some visitors to Kauai plan their trip around it.

“We always have the regulars come back each year. Some people call us to confirm the date of Taste of Hawaii, which is great to hear,” Margolis said.

What’s known as the “Ultimate Sunday Brunch” is set for June 4 at Smith’s Tropical Paradise from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. It’s the primary fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Kapaa.

“All Rotary Clubs have to figure out a strategy for fundraising money and many clubs choose to have lots of little things here or there, but our club has chosen this very large event,” he said. “It’s our 29th year doing this. It’s unusual for a club to consistently do the same thing.”

There are three main objectives to hosting Taste of Hawaii, Margolis said.

“One is to raise as much money as possible to do the service work that we do on island with so many people and nonprofits,” he said. “Two is to make sure that the customers have a great experience with friendship and happy times, a positive and uplifting experience, and third is to share the fellowship of Rotary, and to talk about Rotary is to talk about the value that it brings to our lives and to the island.”

Attendees can enjoy unlimited servings of offerings from over 25 of Hawaii’s finest chefs and breweries from around the state, along with 13 music ensembles performing on four stages.

For the past eight years, Chef John Paul Gordon of The Bistro and Palate Wine Bar and Restaurant in Kilauea has participated in Taste of Hawaii. Participation isn’t about exposure for either of his businesses, however.

“A lot of the reason why we do participate at Taste of Hawaii is to give back a lot to the community, on island and off. We love raising money,” Gordon said. “And it’s a good team-building exercise, honestly. Putting out that volume of food that quickly and efficiently while having a good time doing it, it’s a good experience.

“At Taste of Hawaii, they expect aloha. And good food — fresh, local style food,” he continued. “I try to keep it as Hawaii as possible, but I also like to do some crowd-pleasers that the people are really going to like with wine and beer and music.”

A solar air conditioning tent provided by STI Solar Kauai, plus misters, will help attendees cool off.

And a silent auction is being held at malamaauctions.com.

As with most community functions, volunteers are critical for success, and Taste of Hawaii has an army of them.

“This year we are expanding our volunteer organizations,” said Rotary Club of Kapaa president Josie Cortez, Taste of Hawaii co-chair.

The event supports 16 service projects for island nonprofits.

Taste of Hawaii was more of an “elegant garden party” when it first began, said Margolis, and was held at Coco Palms.

“It’s evolved from a party with 100-150 people to a food, beverage and music extravaganza,” he said. “It’s really one of these over-the-top experiences that’s really loved all over the island, all while fundraising money.”

After Hurricane Iniki hit the island back in 1992, the Rotary Club of Kapaa had to find a new site for the event. One of the members was friends with the Smith family, who welcomed them into the venue. Over time, it grew.

Each year, the club takes an assessment of what works and what can be improved.

“There’s still an awareness or sensitivity to keep it a community event,” Margolis said. “And what I mean by that is that a lot of fundraisers on this island, you pay a higher admission fee than ours and you get a dinner, a sit-down dinner with one portion. But here, with a lower entry fee, you get an overkill of food and wine and beer and musical bands. The value we deliver is way over the top in relation to what we charge, and that’s a delicate balance because we want the community to feel a part of it.”

Margolis said first-timers are in for a treat.

“They’re going to expect an amazing, dynamic, energetic four hours of fun,” he said. “If they like to eat, if they like to drink, if they like music, you can’t find that all in one place in the state other than this particular event. That’s why we call it the ‘Ultimate Sunday Brunch.’”

Admission is $100 for advance tickets and $125 at the entrance. Tickets can be purchased online at www.tastofhawaii.com. For more information, call 346-7095. Parking is available at Vidinha Stadium where attendees can board air- conditioned shuttles to Smith’s Tropical Paradise, provided by Roberts Hawaii.

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