Taste of the South Changes Venues, Cuts Budget to Recoup Lower Sponsor Donations

By D. Channing Muller April 19, 2011, 9:10 AM EDT

Photo: BizBash

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The Taste of the South, an annual food-palooza for Southerners in Washington, held its 29th annual fund-raiser on Saturday night for 1,900 people, about 200 fewer than last year, due to the move to a smaller venue. Previously held at the D.C. Armory, the event was moved to D.A.R. Constitution Hall after complaints about the heat in 2010.

“We felt that after many years at the Armory, we needed a change; and it didn’t have air-conditioning, which became a problem,” said event chairman Jennifer Brooks, who added that the event's June date compounded the atmospheric conditions.

Despite the change, the event sold out and had 400 people attend its V.I.P. reception, which gave sponsors who donated $5,000 or more early access to the party. Additionally, the volunteer-based planning committee once again secured about 80 sponsors donating between $500 and $30,000, though Brooks noted some contributing less money than in past years. To compensate for the decrease in sponsor dollars and the smaller attendance, the committee cut costs from its production budget. The budget cuts allowed the committee to keep its fund-raising on point with last year, totaling $200,000 before the event began and silent-auction profits had been calculated.

JSI—Jericho Stage Inc. helped maximize the venue’s space by covering its theater seats with temporary staging and constructing a new performance stage above that for the 10 Spot band. Each of the 13 Southern states represented had two to five restaurants, both from the Washington area and their home state, serving food from decorated stations around the perimeter of the theater. Occasions Caterers worked with the out-of-state vendors to prepare the shipped food to the restaurant’s specifications.

Additionally, universities from each state and businesses with home offices in the South—like Coca-Cola in Georgia, MoonPie and Krystal in Tennessee, and Mountain Spring Water in Arkansas—provided their products as takeaways.

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