25 years of Taste: Food-focused fundraiser helped shape downtown Carson City
Twenty-five years ago, Advocates to End Domestic Violence put on the first Taste of Downtown. The organization had one band and seven restaurants signed up, and volunteers were shocked when they sold 500 tickets.
“Last year, we had 43 restaurants and six live bands and sold 2,000 tickets,” said Lisa Lee, executive director of AEDV. “The Taste has achieved more for raising awareness of our agency and services we provide than anything else we have ever done.”
That first year, Taste was one of 17 fundraisers the nonprofit put on to raise money for their programming, which aims to eradicate domestic violence in Carson City. Now Taste generates a majority of funding for the organization.
As the annual event has grown and evolved, so has Carson City’s downtown.
“When we started the Taste, no one went downtown, and if you did, you locked your car,” said Lee. “The Fox was a weekly hotel used by recently released inmates from the state prison. Every other building was boarded up and the businesses that were downtown were just getting by.”
“I would like to think that the Taste had a part in reintroducing residents to the possibilities of what an active downtown could once again be.”
Ronni Hannaman, executive director of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce, agrees.
“The Taste of Downtown does exactly what it’s supposed to do and that is showcase our downtown and remind people to come back to those businesses even after the event,” said Hannaman. “I do believe it positively impacts every business that participates.”
June Joplin, owner of Comma Coffee on South Carson Street, has been a part of Taste since she opened her business 18 years ago.
“It’s a great advertisement for your business, and it’s for a good cause,” said Joplin. “There is nothing like getting people through your door and giving them a good taste of what you offer, and hopefully they will come back.”
Though the event has grown and evolved over the years, the recipe has remained the same.
“Taste has become a neighborhood party where you bump into people you have lost touch with while you move from one corner to the next eating as you go,” said Lee. “Good friends, good music, and good food has been the menu for Taste’s success.”