Foodies, art lovers and music aficionados had a stroke of luck Aug. 27—morning rains gave way to sunshine and Elkhart’s Wellfield Botanic Gardens was filled with the rich sounds and smells of the annual Taste of the Gardens.

Organized by the Elkhart Rotary Club to benefit the not-for-profit gardens, the Taste treated about 3,000 attendees to food from more than a dozen vendors, an art show with 55 exhibition tents and live music from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

And while rain pushed overall attendance numbers down from the 5,000 who came out in 2015, Wellfield Botanic Gardens executive director Eric Garton said the event was by most measures a success.

“From the fundraising standpoint, our community support from sponsorships was up this year, which could offset the lost revenue from gate/food sales,” he said. “Ultimately, we were extremely fortunate the weather let up when it did…And as for the other purpose of the event, beyond a fundraiser for Wellfield, it was a great community event.”

Heidi Miller, visiting the event with a singles group from River Oaks Community Church, agreed.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “This is our second year coming, and we love that it is kind of like our tradition. We love the food, we love the gardens, we love the vendors.”

Along with Michelle Eichorst, Sarah Hobbs and Vanessa Depue, Miller said highlights of the tasting tent were the burger from Rocky River Tap & Table, Matterhorn Catering’s bacon wrapped dates and Korean BBQ pork shoulder with kimchi, the smoked pulled pork sandwich with Thai sauce offered by Dandino’s, Bacon Hill Kitchen & Pub’s pulled pork “soul rolls,” and McCarthy’s Irish mac and smoked cheddar.

People walk around sampling food and talking with each other at the Taste of the Gardens at Wellfield Botanic Gardens on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016. (Flavor 574 photo/Krystal Vivian)
People walk around sampling food and talking with each other at the Taste of the Gardens at Wellfield Botanic Gardens on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016. (Flavor 574 photo/Krystal Vivian)

Eichorst said she liked that this year’s event featured different vendors compared to last. “It’s neat to have a way to try other places that you might not necessarily get to at the restaurant,” she said.

The art, music, event setting and beverages were also draws. Miller said she’s admired—and purchased—the jewelry on display in the past and is a big fan—and member—of the gardens.

Husband and wife Matt and Sue Harrison, seated by the live music stage just after Michael Kelsey finished a set, said the renowned Indianapolis-based guitarist was “amazing,” and the couple was looking forward to local funksters The Whistle Pigs and Goshen’s Lalo Cura.

Iechyd Da’s American IPA completed the experience.

“The Revolution IPA is definitely my favorite [thing here], hands down,” Matt Harrison said. Sue Harrison, a pastry chef at Bread and Chocolate in Goshen, gave top billing to Café Navarre’s shrimp linguine.

A serving of pulled pork sliders and pub chips is handed over to a customer at the Bacon Hill Kitchen and Pub booth at the Taste of the Gardens at Wellfield Botanic Gardens on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016. (Flavor 574 photo/Krystal Vivian)
A serving of pulled pork sliders and pub chips is handed over to a customer at the Bacon Hill Kitchen and Pub booth at the Taste of the Gardens at Wellfield Botanic Gardens on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016. (Flavor 574 photo/Krystal Vivian)

Rick Koerting, an Elkhart resident attending with girlfriend Janice O’Toole and others, said this year’s Taste of the Gardens lived up to his expectations—he’s attended for three years running. “I think it’s awesome that you get all these restaurants in one area serving some of their top dishes in smaller portions so you can sample a lot of them,” he said.

O’Toole tried the berry salad and steak with chimichurri sauce from Artisan, while Koerting sung the praises of Bacon Hill’s pork sliders. “You can’t beat it,” he said. “For six tickets you get two sliders and chips with it. Great value.”

The tickets, “event dollars” worth $1 each, seemed to be the only source of consternation on the afternoon, but Koerting said the inconvenience was minor.

“The tickets are tough, but if that’s the only thing we’re whining about, it’s a home run,” he said.

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