The PTA at Alice V. Hedden Elementary School spent the evening of March 23 enjoying a gathering of large proportions. The first annual “Taste of Hedden” event was a grand opportunity for the community to come together and support each other within the hosted space of the elementary school. The evening came complete with everything from raffles and live music, on up to free snacks and even a guest appearance from Rhubarb The Reindeer, mascot for the Tacoma Rainiers baseball team. Making his rounds, mingling with the children and parents alike, it was a nice opportunity for a local sports organization to chip in with their own unique brand of community outreach. When asked what his favorite part of this event was, Rhubarb – in true mascot fashion – hopped to the nearest group of students and kindly wrapped his hooves around them.
McKenzi Williams, general manager of A Spoonful of Sugar Café in Milton, said she was “absolutely amazed by the turnout tonight.” Not too many knew precisely what the event would turn out like, but in Williams’ eyes, it was even better than they could have hoped. “I told Jessica (Connaway), the organizer, we have dibs on a booth at next year's event, for sure!”
The night provided a multitude of benefits, clear and otherwise, for the local business involved and set up as vendors for this event. From being able to get your brand or business name in front of the members of this small, tightly-knit community, to simply “having the opportunity to meet a wide variety of new people in the community,” said Williams, the takeaway is huge.
Among the local companies in attendance was a local favorite, Uptown Koffee and Kafe. Owner Missy Fietz was in awe of the turnout and, simply put, “involving the school children and the local business made for a wonderfully successful event.” As far as participation by the companies that were present, Fietz mentions that, “we are offering such great variety of booths for the kids to involve themselves with tonight.”
Alongside the vendors of typical fair food and accoutrements were interesting and enriching companies like Karate Edge, for example. They set up their booth, as per standard, with one exception – full karate garb – and even had karate chop-ready boards for the kids in attendance to whack in half at a moment's notice. Head instructor Josef Lowry was busy lining up the crowd of eager ninjas around him for well-instructed, and safe, karate chop lesson of epic proportions. The reason it was so great was that the boards actually broke! Kids stepped up, one at a time, for their free Jet Li inspired enrichment. “Think of this board like a big test at school or like riding a bike. Give it your all, and eventually you will succeed,” Lowry said to each and every mini-ninja stepping up to his booth. Lowry showed a true passion for what he does, and the community he does it for. “This is what we love to do, get out into the community and work with them in learning new skills, and really help in our own way.”
Family and community involvement really drove this event into inception, and thrust it successfully into fruition, with help from FME Chamber of Commerce member April Balsley and PTA member Jessica Connaway. “We are extremely happy with the turnout, and the participation from all of those involved,” Connaway said The main goal of this event, according to Connaway, was simply to “remind global and local based businesses in our community to continue reaching out and fostering community involvement, and to introduce those who may not be aware of their neighbors willingness for help and participation.”
Connaway stated that next year's event will most likely take place at a larger outdoor venue, so that more vendors and activities can be added to the lineup, not that this year was lacking in anything. She simply realized that “there has been a lot of support from the local community, a little more than we had planned on.” Next year, be sure to come out and explore a lesser known piece of our South Sound family at “Taste of Hedden 2018” alongside the community and local businesses.