The Downtown Dells and locals will feel a void the second weekend in June this year with the cancellation of Taste of the Dells.
“We had seen the number of restaurants participating going down for several years,” said Mark Sweet, who has been in charge of the Downtown Dells Committee since 2006 and is a member of the BID committee.
“It really was a decision that I didn’t make lightly as far as my own or the Downtown Dells Committee’s participation in it,” he said.
Sweet said staffing challenges and financial reasons were why some restaurants didn’t feel they were able to participate.
“It’s very hard for a restaurant to be in two spots at the same time,” he said. “They have to operate their home base and the booth.”
Justin Draper said he saw the hardships other restaurants had to go through to participate. Draper, High Rock Café owner/chef and BID committee member, said his restaurant had it easy since the event was located outside their back door on Oak Street.
Some restaurants had to truck pizza ovens, refrigerators and other equipment downtown, he said.
High Rock owner/chef Wade Bernander said one of the biggest frustrations for other restaurants was staffing. High Rock Café itself had to have three extra bodies, two in the booth and a runner. Depending on the length of the event, they could have two to three shifts.
High Rock owner Tara Draper said they were fortunate they didn’t need extra kitchen crew and drivers to transport the food to the event.
“It’s not exactly a profitable thing for anybody, including us,” Bernander said. “But it was about getting your name out there and participating in something that was more hands on and face-to-face than a billboard.”
Justin Draper said the event was something for locals. “Whether you lived right here or in Lake Delton, you could come down and sample a bunch of food,” he said. Bernander said they served one menu staple and a new, creative item for the event.
“You want to put the best product out there for the conditions you have and what you can do,” Draper said.
“We have great restaurants in our area,” Mayor Brian Landers said. It was nice for local restaurants to have the opportunity to show off their culinary flare, he said.
Sweet said the interest from the public was always strong.
“It brought a lot of people here in the second weekend in June, which is ordinarily a slow period of time here,” he said.
He said the decision was made months ago and noted at a summer BID meeting. The announcement was posted on the Taste of The Dells Facebook page at the end of December.
The Downtown Dells Committee is brainstorming new ideas that would benefit both the downtown and restaurants, he said.
He said the committee surveyed local restaurants to see if there was interest in having a restaurant week, similar to what is done in other communities around the state like Madison. He said he felt they received a favorable response. This type of event would eliminate the staffing concerns Taste of the Dells imposed. But, this is nowhere near a done deal, he said.
The Downtown Dells Committee will be putting on a Wine Walk April 27. They are also working on something for Easter.