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Taste-of-ALL celebrates 30 years of tastes for all

Chip Ellis
Mike and Georgia Howard of The Candy Factory display a sampling of the sweets that they will bring to Taste-of-All-Charleston on Sunday.
Courtesy photo
A scene from when Taste-of-All-Charleston, now part of FestivALL, was called the Taste of Charleston.
WANT TO GO?Taste-of-ALL CharlestonA FestivALL eventWHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. SundayWHERE: Grand Hall Charleston Civic CenterCOST: No admittance fee. Tasting tickets cost 50 cents eachINFO: festivallcharleston.comCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Candy Factory's owners represent the last man and woman standing as Taste-of-ALL Charleston celebrates its 30th anniversary Sunday. Mike and Georgia Howard sold their sweet treats at the first Taste in 1982, then the Taste of Charleston, and have been at it ever since. They return this year as the only original vendors.He remembers a rocky start. Fourteen vendors set up under tents on the Charleston National Bank Plaza for the inaugural culinary event, which was held on a Wednesday night during the now defunct Charleston Sternwheel Regatta. "A big storm came up and blew the tents all over. We took all our stuff and quickly moved into the Civic Center," he said. "It was pretty chaotic."The crowd, estimated at between 4,000 and 6,000, followed the vendors into the Civic Center, which was set up with table seating for about 100. Tickets were 25 cents each and no items cost more than $2. Most restaurants sold out of food in less than an hour.Many of the vendors at the first Taste, such as Ray's Deli, Brick Oven, Ernie's Esquire, China Imperial and PJ's Number Eight, no longer exist.The Taste grew to a two-day event with 25 restaurants in 1984 and kicked off the Sternwheel Regatta. In 1992, organizers offered a special Winterfest version in February, which was not deemed a success because of low attendance. A second Taste was held during the normal Regatta time period.The event was timed to coincide with the opening weekend of the Sternwheel Regatta until the 10-day regatta was cut to five days in 2000. The Taste moved to Labor Day weekend.
When city officials cancelled the Sternwheel Regatta in 2009, Taste organizers couldn't find a home for the event, which wasn't held that year. In 2010, it was revived as Taste-of-ALL Charleston, a one-day FestivALL event."When the Taste was a two-day event, we had 14,000 people attend," said Emily Wall, chairwoman of Taste-of-ALL. "As a one-day event, we have between 5,000 to 5,500."
Awards and judging were added in 1988, including People's Choice awards for appetizer, entrée and dessert. Chocolate Suicide dessert created by the former River's Edge restaurant in St. Albans has received the most dessert awards through the years. Best of Crete received the most awards in general and Main Kwong has the highest number of ticket sales.In celebration of the 30th anniversary, organizers will run a slide show of photographs of past Tastes. They will bring back popular events such as swing and ballroom dance competitions and have added a cake contest."The cake contest started as birthday cake contest in celebration of the 30th birthday," Wall said. Contest entries must be made-from-scratch cakes with homemade icing and will be judged on taste and decorations. Entries should be dropped off in the Grand Hall between 11 a.m. and noon Sunday.Vendors participating this year are Adelphia Sports Bar & Grill, Charleston Marriott Whitewater Grille, Cheerful Heart Catering, Da Sweeterie, Distinctive Gourmet, Ellen's Homemade Ice Cream, Embassy Suites -- Athletic Club, Fireside Grill, Generation St. George, Huntington Prime Penthouse and Piano Bar, Italian Grille, Joey's Ice Cream Trucks, Kawayan RestoBar, Lil' Husky's of Cross Lanes, Little India, Main Kwong, Mama Rosa's, Mayberry Restaurant, Qdoba Mexican Grill, Ridge View BBQ, Risin' Dough Bakery, Riswanto Organic-to-Go, Savage Sweets, The Candy Factory, The Daily Cup and  Zul's Frozen Lemonade. New vendors are Generation St. George, which will sell Mediterranean platters of kabobs, hummus and salad, Italian Grille in Teays Valley offering a pasta bar, Kawayan RestoBar's Filipino/Asian fusion entrees, Qdoba Mexican Grill, Savage Sweets' cupcakes and truffles, Joey's Ice Cream Trucks shaved ice, Cheerful Heart Catering and Riswanto Organic-To-Go with gluten free, vegetarian offerings.Prices range from $4 for entrees such as crab cake, braised short rib or salmon, pulled pork tacos sliders, walleye with potato latke, chicken tikka masala, pasta bar and Mediterranean platters to 50-cent side dishes such as baked beans, mac and cheese, dinner rolls and cookies.
Food demonstrations by Ichiban and possibly others are scheduled in the West Virginia room. The West Virginia State University Extension Service will present interactive activities for children including a NASA star lab, take-home agriculture activities, healthy food samples and fun physical activities."We really want this to be a family event with something for everyone," said Wall.Taste-of-ALL Charleston, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 17 at Charleston Civic Center's Grand Hall. Visit Julie Robinson at or 304-348-1230. 
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