BONITA SPRINGS — Southwest Floridians will get the full flavor of Bonita Springs at the 20th Annual Taste of Bonita on Saturday, Nov. 16 and Sunday, Nov. 17. The event will feature home cooking on Saturday and a one-stop chance to get the top tastes from locally owned restaurant professionals on Sunday.
The Taste of Bonita, held at Riverside Park on Old U.S. 41 in Bonita Springs, typically draws approximately 10,000 people over the course of the weekend, organizers said.
“It gets bigger and better every year. This year, because it’s the 20th anniversary, we’re going all out more open grass space in the park’s center, more activities, just a lot bigger and better,” said Mike Prioletti, a Rotarian and Taste of Bonita Coordinator.
The Rotary Club of Bonita Springs Noon and Physicians Regional Healthcare System are hosting the event, which has raised more than $500,000 in the past 10 years for charitable causes supported by the Rotary Club, including Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida, the Bonita Springs Assistance Office, New Horizon’s Super Girls Club, the Wheelchair Foundation and many others.
Sunday is considered the main day with a chance to sample from about 25 locally owned restaurants.
“These are all local, no national chain restaurants, so you truly get the local flare,” said Prioletti.
There will be varying prices for the offerings, mostly ranging $2 to $5, he said.
The wide range of restaurants and food fare include Big Hickory Grille, a waterfront restaurant accessible by car and boat that will be even more accessible with a stroll through Riverside Park on Sunday. There will also be ice cream, shakes, smoothies and other desserts from Royal Scoop, Heaven Shakes, Tropical Smoothie and other sweet specialists from the area. The Fish House, Rodes Fishmarket, The Stage, Old 41 Restaurant, Randy’s Fishmarket, Buffalo Chips, Tony Sacco’s coal oven pizza of Estero, and many others will offer a chance to try their fares.
For those who like it really fresh, as in fresh out of the ground-- Farmer Mike’s Upick is also on the Taste of Bonita menu, along with Johnny Malloy’s and Fitzgerald’s.
The two-day event kicks off Saturday with a home cooked flare as individuals and organizations compete in a chili, gumbo soup and pulled pork barbeque cook-off, 11 a.m. 3 p.m.
The Rotary Club’s current president, Darrell Brown, and immediate past president, Mary Shallies, are among the competitors in the gumbo cook-off, each making their own special recipe and with net proceeds to benefit Bonita Springs Assistance Office.
“We’re excited to put what we both think are the best gumbos this side of New Orleans in the cook-off. Better yet, we’ll be able to assist a great organization in our community,” said Brown.
Also on Saturday is a craft fair, an abundance of children’s activities and a free concert, featuring a Jimmy Buffett tribute band, the Caribbean Chillers.
Then, Sunday, the professionals will show off their best dishes as more than 20 Bonita Springs’ area restaurants offer samplings of their menus in the official Taste of Bonita, 11 a.m. 5 p.m.
There will be live music throughout the day Sunday, featuring a Beatles & Rolling Stones Tribute Band and local ABC-7 affiliate news anchors will emcee.
“We couldn’t be more pleased to be bringing this event to the community for the 20th year in a row. By making this a two day event, filled with activities for people of all ages, we hope to raise record amounts to help both local and international charitable causes The Rotary Club of Bonita Springs Noon supports,” said Rob Grady, event chairman.
The family-friendly event will include a children’s area with slides, rock climbing, bounce houses, laser tag, face painting and several other activities.
The children’s area is open Saturday and Sunday. Armband pricing allows a child to ride as many times as they like or single tickets can be purchased for $1. Saturday, armbands will be available from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at a cost of $15 per child and include laser tag. There will be $12 armbands available without laser tag. Armbands for the children’s area will be only $10 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.
IF YOU GO
20th Annual Taste of Bonita
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, Chili, Gumbo and BBQ cookoff, craft fair, children’s activities and free Jimmy Buffett Tribute Band, Caribbean Chillers at 5 p.m.; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17, Official Taste of Bonita, children’s activities, live music from Rolling Stones and The Beatles Tribute Bands throughout
Where: Riverside Park, 10450 Reynolds St. Bonita Springs. The park is off Old 41 Road, between Childers Street and Reynolds Street.
Cost: Free entry. Food tastings vary, mostly $2-$5; children’s rides $1 for 1 ticket, unlimited rides with armbands are $15 and include laser tag on Saturday or $12 without laser tag; children’s armbands are $10 on Sunday.