Lutz has its Fourth of July Parade. Westchase boasts the Great 5K Run. New Tampa folks? Well, if you judge them on their one big event each year, they really love to eat.
The Taste of New Tampa, where businesses and restaurants give out freebies during three hours of eating and drinking and mingling, is back for its 15th year. The event takes place this Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the New Tampa Community Park in Tampa Palms, where for the first time there will also be a VIP area.
"Food is a universal language of fun," said Mary Ann Yaney, the event chairwoman and vice president of the New Tampa Community Council, which puts on the activity. "This is our signature event."
This year, about 30 restaurants will give out samples of their food along with menus.
More than 100 businesses will hawk their services. It's where dentists give out toothbrushes, insurance agents hand out plastic cups, Realtors have magnets and banks offer lollipops. It's like swag bags for the middle class.
Then there's the food: in past years, the all-you-can-eat event featured fondue samples from the Melting Pot, pasta from Saddlebrook Resort and even french fries from McDonald's.
Beer and wine used to be dispensed, too.
However, because of wet zoning issues this year, organizers had to create a VIP area across the park in an office where the Lime will hand out samples of its specialty drinks, Yaney said. There will also be additional food samples in the VIP area.
The cost is $15 ($10 in advance.) VIP wrist bands cost an additional $5 and will be sold on the day of the event at the gate or on the shuttles that will be ferrying people from the Freedom High School parking lot to the adjacent park.
USF Bull Runner shuttle vans will run continuously. The goal, Yaney said, is to not leave anyone waiting for shuttle service.
Also new this year will be a mobile cigar lounge featuring a modified Airstream trailer complete with leather seats, a big screen TV and a humidor.
KB Home, the event's official naming sponsor, will give away prizes including free gas for a year and $500 grocery coupons.
Last year, the event drew about 5,000 people and raised $25,000 for local schools and charities. This year, they expect up to 8,000 people.
Despite the wet zoning issue, organizers say this should be the best event yet. "I think we've figured it out" Yaney said. "It's going to be big, and it's going to be spectacular."