This past Friday, the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority (DSDA) hosted the fourth annual Taste of Downtown celebration. As a part of the DSDA's F1rst Friday Downtown calendar, this particular event has become an annual favorite as demonstrated by the largest crowd ever to attend.
"We sold more tickets this year than ever before," said DSDA executive director Allen Muldrew. "This is where people come and enjoy progressive appetizers provided by local restaurants that are unique to Statesboro. You can eat at a national chain restaurant in any town, but you must come to Statesboro to enjoy the fare that is being provided tonight."
With hundreds of tickets sold, hungry patrons walked up down Statesboro's main streets visiting businesses which hosted the restaurants. El Sombrero could be found on the front porch of City Hall, while Manny's Restaurant had two different stations in Georgia Southern's downtown
"We really love being in downtown, and are so glad to participate in an event like this one," said Luke Pittaway, executive director of Georgia Southern's Center for Entrepreneurial Learning and Leadership. "There are students that don't come to downtown the entire time that they are attending Georgia Southern. This campus and events like this one will hopefully be instrumental in changing that. As you can see, downtown has a lot to offer."
Maria Chukka, an Atlanta area native, is a senior at Georgia Southern, and she readily admitted that this was the first time she had ventured downtown in the four years that she has been here.
"My friends said they were coming to this event, and I said that I would like to go, because I had never been downtown," she said. "This is much, much more than I thought it would be. I am so glad that I came with them. It is just wonderful and has been a lot of fun."
For five dollars, patrons of the celebration could walk to 18 different businesses, each with a different restaurant providing samples, as well as 119 Chops and The Beaver House Inn and Restaurant. In addition, other vendors set up on the courthouse square, including jewelry designer Caroline Hunter.
"The name of my business is With These Handz," Hunter said. "I have been employed by the FBI for over 23 years, and this a sideline for me. Every chance that I get to meet people and show them what I do, right here in Statesboro, I try to take advantage of it. This is a wonderful event tonight."
Joining Hunter on the square was J.J. Lee of Lee Farms. Lee was frying okra and squash for patrons to sample.
"I hadn't planned on coming out tonight, but frankly, the combine was broken and the sprayer tractor tore up, so I said, let's go have some fun," he said. "So here we are frying up some awesome okra and squash, grown right here. The crowd is great. What more can you ask."
Vintage Connection owner Dawn Williams was thrilled with the turnout generated by her restaurateur, RJ's Seafood & Steaks.
"We have never had that many people come through our store before," she said. "We are a little off of the beaten path as we are located on East Vine Street. But, RJ's really brought them in, and so many people told me that they just didn't realize that we were here. The event was fabulous, the food that Randy provided was fabulous, and we had people coming in right up until 8:00. I know that we will participate again next year."