Downtown Carson City was inside-out Saturday evening.
Forty-four business that usually function mostly indoors set up booths under blue skies to form the city’s biggest buffet, known as the Taste of Downtown. As visitors strolled along Curry Street and other arteries west of Carson Street, they were greeted by a symphony of smells — tamales, pizza, baked goods and pulled pork — and sounds.
Ten bands were set to play, strategically placed far enough apart that their performances didn’t blend. Northern Nevada’s indomitable wind made a modest effort to disrupt things at tarp-covered informational booths, with little success.
Navy recruiter Kira Griffin of Carson City said she’d avoided eating all day so she could make the most of her second experience with the Taste of Downtown. She said downtown business operators are friendly with one another — but that they also were eagerly eyeing the awards given for best shop, band, discovery, atmosphere, taste and overall.
“You always have to one-up yourself,” Griffin said. “It’s kind of like a rivalry between the little shops.”
Nearby, Todd White of Carson City was looking forward to his first experience with the Taste. He previously lived in Los Angeles for years — a place with a slightly larger-scale food scene. He said he might use the Taste as a guide to decide where to dine in Carson City in the future.
His mission was simple: “I just want to eat some good food,” White said.
John Hurzel represented NV Nosh in the eatery’s food-truck home. His wife, Linda, stood nearby, representing Karen’s Kupcakes. From inside the food truck, John explained why they get involved.
“Goodwill. Public exposure,” he said. “All the funds go to a good cause, and you get to see all your friends.”
That good cause is the Advocates to End Domestic Violence, a Carson City nonprofit that hosts the Taste of Downtown. Executive director Lisa Lee said the idea for the event came to her about 20 years ago, when she noticed an uptick in the quality of downtown’s culinary options.
In 1995, the first year of the Taste, seven restaurants and one band were involved.
“When we started, we had a hard time getting restaurants to do it,” she said in an interview Thursday. “But the last few years, it has not been difficult. They call us now.”
That growth has dramatically changed the Advocates’ fund-raising strategy, Lee said. In 1995, the nonprofit organized 17 fund-raisers. Now, the Taste is one of two it runs each year; the other is a walk/run in October.
The Taste of Downtown is held on a Saturday in mid-June every year for a reason: When deciding on a date, Lee and others did some research and figured out which weekend tended to have the best weather of the year.
“We’ve stayed on the same date; it’s been our misfortune that others have also discovered it’s a good weekend,” Lee joked.
Indeed, Carson City residents looking for something to do Saturday had lots to choose from. Other big events were the open house at the Carson City Airport, an anniversary celebration at the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada, and an open house marking the 150th anniversary of the Warren Engine Co.