LUMBERTON — After seeing a cow dance with a slice of pizza, some people may have wondered if they’d eaten too much during the Taste of Robeson fundraiser Monday.
But the costumed restaurant workers cutting a rug at Hyde Park Baptist Church weren’t the product of a food-induced hallucination. They were there to promote Chick-Fil-A and Papa John’s, two of 35 local eateries on hand for the Robeson County Church and Community Center’s annual smorgasbord.
About 500 people turned out for the first evening of the two-night feast, which will continue from 5 to 8 p.m. today.
“It has exceeded my expectations,” said Darlene Jacobs, the center’s executive director. “There’s been a lot of community participation from a great cross-section of people. We’re very pleased.”
The event raised more than $10,000 to provide struggling residents with food, clothing and financial assistance. Money came from sponsorships and the sale of tickets, which are $10 for adults, $5 for children younger than 12 years old and free for bite-sized diners under the age of 3.
Karla Ward, marketing director for Lu Mil Vineyard, greeted guests from a table lined with jars of jam and cider. Taste of Robeson, she said, presented a valuable opportunity to promote the various products and amenities offered at the Dublin venue.
“I love this event,” Ward said. “It helps local people who are in need and lets us show people a different side of Lu Mil. People from Robeson County are very important to us and this was a fun way to show people who are already familiar with [the vineyard] something new, while introducing us to those who are not.”
Assisting Ward was Erin Tesoriero, one of 14 students from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke who volunteered to help vendors during the fundraiser.
“I’ve gotten fantastic insight,” Tesoriero said. “I’m learning a lot about how to engage people and get them excited about the product.”
Other businesses participating in the event include KAMI; CiCi’s Pizza; Candy Sue’s; Sonic; Chick Fil A; Golden Coral; Sweet Frog; Big Daddy’s Catering; Village Station; Papa John’s; Domino’s; Divine Desserts; Texas Steakhouse; IHOP; Smithfield’s; Sam’s Club; Waffle House; Thai Chili; Boondocks; Tommy’s BBQ; SoHo and The Salad Bar.
Traditionally held in March, Taste of Robeson is the Robeson County Church and Community Center’s largest annual fundraiser. The event took in more than $11,000 last year and was attended by about 1,000 people.
“The community looks forward to it,” said Bridgit Bass, committee chairwoman for the center. “And we’ve fine-tuned it over the years to give them what they want, which it turns out is just to eat and have fun. They mostly come for the food and fellowship.”
In addition to dispersing money to residents in need, the center runs a food bank, home store and clothing donation site. The nonprofit is overseen by a 20-member board of directors.
Hyde Park Baptist Church is located at 301 N. Roberts Ave. For information about Taste of Robeson, call 910-738-5204.
Staff writer Jaymie Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5771 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.