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  Tuesday January 27th, 2015    

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Taste of Winona brings the best of river city to the table (07/31/2013)
By Jen Burris

Flower painting by Monica Veraguth
This Saturday, Winona area residents will have the opportunity to sample food, drink wine, socialize, and enjoy the opportunity to bid on some beautiful artwork, and stellar pre-planned vacations, all while raising money for Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). Three trips of a lifetime will be up for grabs during the live auction portion of the evening, as well as many enticing silent auction items for just about any budget. The 2013 Taste of Winona includes food, wine, and beer tasting, a silent and live auction, and — most importantly — the chance to support a great cause.

Co-chairs Cynthya Porter and Kris Blanchard came up with the idea to create a unique community event that would raise money for BBBS at about the same time. Porter has watched the fundraiser evolve from the start. “We have sponsors in Winona that underwrite the cost of everything, so all the money we raise goes straight to the program,” Porter explained. The first year Taste of Winona raised $8,600, and the numbers continued to grow from there. The event raised about $44,000 last year.

This year, Taste of Winona will take place at the Winona County History Center at 5 p.m. on August 3. The tasting and silent auction will take place from 5 to 8 p.m., and the live auction will follow. Tickets are available for purchase at Hy-Vee, Hy-Vee Liquor, Midtown Foods, and online at tasteofwinona.org.

This year there are three types of tickets that can be purchased in advance — Patron of Taste of Winona, Friend of Taste of Winona, and a general admission ticket. Porter explained that the special ticket categories were created for the people who come year after year to support this event and BBBS. “We wanted to give them the opportunity to show their support through these special designations,” Porter noted. On the evening of the event, friends and patrons will be invited to an exclusive pre-event cocktail party with the sponsors and artists participating in Taste of Winona. Friends and patrons will receive a pin to wear that designates them as friends or patrons of Taste of Winona. All attendees will receive a commemorative wine glass upon entering the event. General admission tickets in advance are $20, the day of the event and at the door $25. Friend of Taste of Winona tickets are $50, and Patron of Taste of Winona are $150.

There are several items to bid on this year, including an early-bird ski package at the Wyndham Vacation Club in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. From December 6 to December 13, 2013, stay in a luxury, three-bedroom villa with room for up to eight people. There is no need for potential bidders to worry about weather conditions for this trip, as the mountain has state-of-the-art snow-making equipment to hurry Mother Nature along. The auction item comes with a $300 credit for skiing the Steamboat slopes.

Also up for grabs is a week in an 18th-century Italian villa in the heart of Tuscany. This vacation next June mixes modern day conveniences with the rich history of Italy.

Finally, there is a week-long stay during the month of September at the Luxury Marriott Ocean Club in Aruba. This trip comes with a $300 credit to the dive shop of the winner’s choice.

These big-ticket vacation items aren’t the only things up for auction; there are plenty of smaller items for those on a budget. These smaller items include massages, a spa weekend, and artwork from local artists. There will be bidding opportunities for everyone, Porter noted.

What has struck Porter the most is the way the community steps up and gives of themselves to the cause. Members of the community donate not only their money, but their talents as well, making the event even more memorable.

“I think that without question, my favorite thing has been the feeling that I get when this community steps up and supports us with their donations and with their bids,”Porter noted. “There’s something incredibly validating when they step up behind you.”



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