Organizers were hoping to top the 20,000 people who attended the festival in 2011. The festival featured 130 commercial vendors, including everything from artists to dog breeders, and 30 food booths, including JD’s Bar-B-Que, the Melting Pot, Zorba’s Kitchen and Rico’s Mex Mex.
Most of the food vendors, which sold sample items ranging from $1 to $4 came from Cobb County, along with a couple from Cherokee and Bartow counties, said Jeff Glover, chairman and founder of the event, which is co-sponsored by the city of Acworth and the Acworth Business Association.
“I think it’s about understanding what’s in Acworth,” he said. “You don’t have to go to Bartow or Paulding; we’ve got everything in place from insurance to food.”
The event featured a couple new wrinkles this year, including a farmer’s market, that featured organic produce.
“We’re trying to make people aware that we do have local produce,” Glover said.
While Taste of Acworth has had judges give awards to their favorite food items in the past, the event introduced “celebrity judges” this year. Judging the food was Chattahoochee Technical Institute culinary program director Hillary Gallagher; Johnnie Gabriel, owner of Gabriel’s Desserts in Marietta; Aletia DuPree, a former restaurant owner and author of the “Deliciously Southern” cookbook and retired Cobb firefighter Danny Jordan, who said he was representing the common man.
“I was asked to do it and I just jumped at the chance,” he said.
Gallagher said she would be looking for food with good taste that was well presented with “enthusiasm from the presenter.”
Gabriel said she was just looking for delicious tasting food.
“That’s what brings people in,” she said. “All those healthy things go out the window.”
All the winning dishes came from restaurants located on Main Street in Acworth. Susco’s took home two awards, best appetizer for its apple salad and presentation for its ahi tuna. J.D.’s won for best entrée for its smoked beef tenderloin and Parkside Italian Kitchen’s orange Italian cream cake won for best dessert.
Attendees walked Main Street to sample the various foods. When they weren’t drowned out by the occasional thunder of a passing train, they could listen to music on a stage at the north end of downtown from country and bluegrass artists like Roger Hurricane Wilson and Sojourner. On the south end, another stage featured dance groups and fashion and dog shows.
Laureen Hawes of Kennesaw sampled a gordita and was looking to try one of the frozen drinks from Joe’s and Glo’s Hawaiian Shaved Ice that everyone seemed to be carrying around.
“We’re just kind of free and easy, whatever catches our fancy,” she said.
Reginald and Mary Ann Awtrey of Marietta tried some barbecue from Williamson Brothers and were going to look for “something sweet.”
“It’s just a real pretty day, and we like to get out and do something outdoors — but the food is good,” Reginald Awtrey said.