Taste Of Parkersburg

PARKERSBURG – An estimated 3,500 people, the largest crowd in the downtown event’s nine years, attended last Saturday’s Taste of Parkersburg next to the Blennerhassett Hotel.

Last year’s attendance was around 2,000 people, said Carrie Nesselrode, executive director of the Downtown PKB, which is organizing the festival of food, wine and music. Previous years attendance averaged from 2,000 to 3,000 people.

“The response was fabulous,” Nesselrode said Wednesday. Besides drawing people from the Mid-Ohio Valley, residents of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, Florida, Virginia and throughout West Virginia attended the Taste of Parkersburg this year.

“The Taste of Parkersburg is well-known in the state,” Nesselrode said.

Working to make the TOP a success were the more than 100 volunteers, the Blennerhassett Hotel, Downtown PKB, city of Parkersburg, Wood County and the Greater Parkersburg Convention & Visitors Bureau, Nesselrode said. Adults and youth from Boy Scout Troop 16, based at Lauckport United Methodist Church, helped to clean up and remove tables and chairs after the event.

Anticipating a large crowd this year – with the beautiful weather forecast – 100 more chairs and 15 more tables were set up. The number of reserved seats increased from 120 to 216, and all were sold.

Any profits are rolled over into next year’s event, said Nesselrode.

“It was nice to see younger people (25-35 years old) at the event,” she said. Nesselrode noted the TOP is not meant to be a family event attended by young children – but instead a night out for adults.

A few more tables at the entrance and other locations were added this year. Four more vendor booths were added by removing the back entrance.

The Taste of Parkersburg will continue to be celebrated in the spring, the weekend after Memorial Day, after being held in September the first seven years, Nesselrode said.

Most of the vendors sold out of food, while several of the wine vendors sold all their products, she said.

TOP wants to expand its market reach next year, making it a destination event for the region, Nesselrode said.

Planning has already begun on the 10th annual Taste of Parkersburg. Look for an added feature or two – like a celebrity chef in attendance – to celebrate the 10th anniversary next year.

The Downtown PKB will look at possibly expanding the venue into Third Street, Market Street or nearby parking lots, Nesselrode said.

Seventeen food vendors participated, with other restaurants saying they want to participate next year, Nesselrode said. There were 24 wine vendors and four beer vendors this year – more than last year.

With the added popularity of the event, TOP officials need to look at the “entrance process” – getting people in quicker and easier, Nesselrode said.

Advance ticket sales were up this year. Online registration, a new feature this year, was well received and will continue, Nesselrode said.

TOP will look at adding tables for patrons to sit around next year.

Taste of Parkersburg

PARKERSBURG – Bright sunshine and warm weather greeted thousands of guests who came to Market Street in downtown Parkersburg on Saturday for the annual Taste of Parkersburg.

The event, now in its ninth year, featured a variety of food and beverages provided by local and regional businesses for sampling during the evening at the Blennerhassett Hotel and Bicentennial Plaza. A wine dinner and after-party were held Friday at the Blennerhassett.

Carrie Nesselrode, executive director of Downtown PKB, which has taken over organizing the Taste, said about 1,600 tickets for the event were pre-ordered, and officials hoped to double that number at the gate.

“The weather is perfect, and we’ve had a lot of great response,” she said Saturday afternoon. “We look at this as the kickoff to our summer.”

This year officials made a special effort to recruit volunteers, and Nesselrode said about 100 volunteers were working Saturday’s event.

“We’re so grateful for our volunteers,” she said. “We couldn’t do this without them.”

Nesselrode said this year’s event featured more than 120 varieties of wine and 50 varieties of food from local restaurants.

Sisters Angela Landers and Christy Knopp graduated from Parkersburg High School in 1987, but now live in Atlanta, Ga., and Cincinnati, Ohio, respectively. While visiting local family this week, both decided they would check out the Taste of Parkersburg.

“I’d never been to this festival and it seemed like a fun thing to do,” Landers said. “I love it. It’s perfect.”

Landers said the area has needed an event like Taste for years, and she was excited to see it being held downtown and doing so well.

“Parkersburg has such a small, hometown flavor. You really need a way to bring people back,” she said.

“I have a bunch of friends on Facebook who said they’d be here tonight,” Knopp said. “It’s nice to be able to get everyone together like this.”

For some, the real draw of the Taste of Parkersburg is a taste of something new. Michael Nyquist said he is originally from Minnesota and has lived in different towns and states, most recently in Ripley. His interest in microbrews was the reason for visiting the event with Parkersburg resident Jennifer Sutton, he said.

“I like to taste what everyone else has, maybe get some ideas,” Nyquist said. “I like to see if they are doing anything interesting, and that’s what I’m interested in, something that’s not the normal, mainstream beers.”

Sutton said she had attended the Taste a few years back, but figured with Nyquist being new to the area, it was a good time to come back.

“I thought this was a good way for him to get to see a lot of the vendors that are in this area,” all at the same time, she said.