Sunday, August 27, 2000

Food, music, food, fun, food

Festival grows bigger yearly with variety of deliciousness

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BLUE ASH — They came in the afternoon to eat.

        They excavated corn on the cob, devoured plates of ribs lathered in barbecue sauce, tore apart clouds of pink and blue cotton candy, made potato pancakes disappear and breathed the cloying aroma of 23 restaurants offering everything from brats and metts to vegetarian biryani.

[photo] Opening wide, 2-year-old R.J. Dein of Loveland tries to eat an ice cream sandwich before it melts Saturday at Taste of Blue Ash.
(Mike Simons photo)
| ZOOM |
        Two couples — Joel and Debbie Stoia from Dayton, and Bill and Debbie Schneider, of Blue Ash — came to eat but hadn't gotten very far at the 15th annual Taste of Blue Ash Saturday afternoon.

        Each couple pushed a three-seated stroller, each stroller filled by a set of triplets. People stopped to talk to them. People stopped to take photos.

        “That's just mind-boggling,” said one man as he stood off to the side and watched.

        “Maybe we should get them something to eat,” said Ms. Schneider.

        “Where's the Gerber booth?” asked Mr. Schneider.

        Taste of Blue Ash has grown over the years from a small community event to one that attracts more than 200,000 over its three-day run, mixing good food with top oldies groups for entertainment in the evenings. A portion of Hunt Road, near Cooper Road, is closed to accommodate the event.

        The Schneiders and Stoias didn't know if they'd make it to the evening's entertainment. The wives met on a panel testing diapers for Procter & Gamble Co. and they decided to get together on Saturday at Taste.

        “We decided to come down and see what's here,” said Mr. Stoia as he and his wife lifted and rearranged their children — Jared, Kristen and Nicholas, all 18 months — in their stroller seats.

        “We just moved here a year ago from Omaha,” said Mr. Schneider, standing next to the stroller filled with Christopher, Margaret and Billy, all 21 months. “This is our first Taste. We came just to check it out. We heard about the great food, good music. And it's nice just to get out of the house.”

        Donna Levine, who lives in Blue Ash, arrived in the afternoon with her daughter, Leslie, 14, and her daughter's friends, and set up folding chairs near the stage. The chairs were parked next to hundreds of other folding and lawn chairs that guaranteed a seat for the evening's performances.

        “It's gotten bigger,” said Ms. Levine, who has been to Taste the past eight years. “But it's a safe place for kids, the security is very good. The entertainment's always great. It's a real nice way to end the summer.”

        Now that Ms. Levine had staked out a spot near the stage, she planned to leave Taste and attend a church festival in Hyde Park, returning to Blue Ash in the evening to take in the Original Drifters and Chuck Berry.

        Laurie Flanagan, of Symmes Township, was there with her two children, Connor, 3, and Colin, 6 months. It was a break in the routine for her.

        “It's not only the food, but a chance to get the kids out,” said Ms. Flanagan. “This is a ball for them. And mom gets to not cook. She gets to eat her way through the park.”

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