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Taste of Pasco pleases palates

Pity the poor dieter who went to Gulf View Square Mall on Sunday, unaware of the dangers that awaited. The mall was transformed into a world of apple pies, chicken wings, spicy chili, and onion rings Sunday. More than 15 local restaurants participated in the Taste of Pasco, and some said they sold twice as much food as they had expected.

Thousands converged on the food festival, craving baby-back ribs, banana bread and hero sandwiches.

"You've got to have some of their apple pie," Gene Brumblay said, pointing to the Village Inn booth. He and his wife, Virginia, had sampled quite a bit of the food and were heading for more.

"And you don't even have to wash the dishes," a smiling Mr. Brumblay said.

"It's pretty good," said Gene Thompson, having downed a sandwich from Subway. His wife, Kathy, had the chicken wings and onion rings from Off Campus, and they wandered off through the maze of eager eaters to find more tasty dishes.

Vendors called the Taste of Pasco a smashing success, and some had to close early or call the main store for more because they had run out of food.

"We've gone through three times what we thought we would already," said Ted Van Atta, a general manager at Bill Knapp's.

At the Brooklyn U.S.A. booth, the knishes, a deep-fried potato dish, sold like, well, hotcakes, said Tony Winiecki, a delivery man.

The Road Runner and Pit Boss waged a friendly battle over barbecued-rib fans at the food fair. Keith Cartmill of the Road Runner pitched his tender baby-back ribs as the best in the county. "In three years I've never had a complaint," he boasted. Cartmill said he and Tracy Jackson were so busy Sunday that they were unable to leave the booth.

Cater-cornered from the Road Runner, the Pit Boss piled on the sauce and piled in the customers. "Our ribs," said Jerry Salerno, "speak for themselves."

Taste of Pasco was modeled after the Taste of Pinellas in downtown St. Petersburg's Straub Park. The Port Richey Council of the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event and said it was so successful that the group might consider doing it twice a year, said Brenda Litz, a Chamber member.

The Chamber splits the profits with the vendors, said Chamber Chairman Ron Toler, although vendors had to put up $53 for a booth. Toler estimated that the event had drawn about 3,000 diners by 3 p.m.