By Kelly Dickey
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — People may be coming for the food, but this weekend’s Gourmet Sampler is going to be all about the athletes.
The annual event is 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday in the former Sears location at Mounds Mall. It’s Anderson’s 30th Gourmet Sampler.
More importantly, the committee is adding new events to raise even more money for the Madison County Special Olympics, Gourmet Sampler Committee chair Gloria Long said.
This year’s event will feature a silent auction, a 50/50 raffle and a live auction. Jewelry, gift cards, a golf package, a weekend getaway and preseason Colts tickets are among the items to be auctioned off.
Last year’s Sampler raised $11,000 for the Special Olympics. But Long hopes the additional fundraising will bring this year’s total to at least $18,000.
“Our Olympians, that’s why we raise the money,” she said, pausing. “… I tear up when I talk about them. A lot of them don’t have the money to get out there and be a part of (the Special Olympics).”
Michelle Calhoun, Madison County Special Olympics coordinator, said the Gourmet Sampler is the organization’s biggest fundraising event of the year. Although she isn’t sure what percentage the fundraiser accounts for in its overall budget, it helps provide uniforms, transportation and competition fees.
The auctions and raffle adds a new spin to a classic event, while serving as an opportunity to raise awareness and money for the Special Olympics, Calhoun said.
“Special Olympics isn’t so much about being an athlete or your disability,” she said. “It’s more about what you can do despite your limitations. We all have something that limits us in some way, shape or form.”
Attendees will have the opportunity to meet some of the athletes at the Gourmet Sampler. Special Olympics will have tables set up to show Anderson residents what the organization is about. Some of the athletes, including one who is going to nationals for power lifting this summer, will be there to meet guests.
“They enjoy competing and doing all these competitions,” Calhoun said. “At the same time, events like this make you realize the passion our community has for us.”
But of course, the main attraction for a lot of folks is the food.
Jan’s Cake and Candy Crafts, A Slice of Heaven Cakery and Montana Mike’s Steakhouse are among the 29 vendors at the Gourmet Sampler. Long said 30 restaurants initially signed up, but one dropped out this week because of health reasons.
Long said each restaurant comes ready to serve at least 800 patrons, giving people plenty of opportunities to devour their favorite food.
“You never leave hungry,” she said.
Advance tickets for the Gourmet Sampler cost $15 and can be purchased at Anderson Rent-All, Dan’s Music, Edgewater Woods, Moneyhun’s Fine Gifts and Furnishings, Seasons of the Heart, the Mounds Mall office or from a Gourmet Sampler Committee member. Tickets at the door are $18. Children between the ages of four and 10 can get in for $8, and those younger than three get free admission.
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