Clubs reveal secrets to great food fundraisers
Blue crabs, a point of local gastronomic pride and the state crustacean, highlight the three-hour, all-you-can-eat Annapolis Rotary Crab Feast, where about 3,000 people each consume an average of 13 crabs pulled from the Chesapeake Bay.
I n the food-obsessed cultures of today, where scoring reservations to top restaurants has become a cutthroat sport and amateur food bloggers treat eating like a part-time job, your Rotary club’s pancake breakfast faces unprecedented competition. But there’s also no better time to spice up your food fundraiser or launch a new one. Learn how from Rotary club food festival organizers.
Annapolis Rotary Crab Feast
Blue crabs, a point of local gastronomic pride and the state crustacean, highlight this three-hour, all-you-can-eat feast, where about 3,000 people each consume an average of 13 crabs pulled from the Chesapeake Bay. The event, held in early August at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, is billed as “the world’s largest crab feast.” Dinner includes steamed blue crabs (whose scientific name translates to “savory beautiful swimmer”), along with crab soup, corn, ribs, and hot dogs. The club boosts profits by selling Crab Feast Mania , a book of recipes contributed by Rotarians and friends. Randy Goff, the event’s 2011 chair, credits its success to a hands-on commitment from every club member and an emotional investment from local residents. “Eating crabs here is ingrained in the culture,” Goff explains. “There’s a sense of ownership in the community about this event.” With crab conservation in mind, the club encourages attendees to “take all you want, but eat all you take.”
Money raised in 2011: US$83,000
Crabs consumed: 40,000
Years running: 67
Charities include: Rebuilding Together, Anne Arundel County CASA Inc.
Sponsor: Rotary Club of Annapolis, Md., USA
Secret ingredient: Strong vendor relationships. Seafood distributors donate raffle prizes, and a local barbecue restaurant provides pulled pork, hamburger, and other meats. Vendors also handle food prep, ensuring that the tens of thousands of crabs are properly steamed.
Steamed spiced crabs
¼ cup finely chopped ginger
1 small garlic bulb, peeled and finely chopped
¾ tablespoon mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1½ teaspoons red pepper flakes, crushed
5 bay leaves, crushed
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 onions, finely chopped
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup dry white wine
12 blue crabs, live
Combine ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, allspice, red pepper, bay leaves, fennel seeds, and onions in a bowl. Set a steamer in a tall stock pot and pour in vinegar, wine, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and then remove pot from heat. Put 3 crabs in steamer and scatter ¼ of spice mixture over them. Layer remaining crabs on top, using 3 crabs and ¼ of spice mixture for each layer. Cover the steamer tightly and set on high heat. Steam crabs for 20 minutes, starting when steam first escapes the pot. Then turn off the heat and let the pot stand, still covered, while steam subsides (about 3 minutes). Serve crabs hot.
Reprinted from Crab Feast Mania: A Cookbook for Crab Lovers, by the Rotary Club of Annapolis, Md., USA. Recipe donated by Mimi Jones.
Lincolnshire Sausage Festival
The Lincolnshire sausage, a regional specialty characterized by coarse-ground pork seasoned with sage, salt, and pepper, takes center stage at this festival. In the last decade, the event has grown from a small farmers’ market to a major celebration of local food held inside Lincoln Castle. Produce vendors from the countryside set up alongside butchers hawking secret-recipe sausages. Entertainment includes cooking demos by TV chef Rachel Green, a Lincolnshire native, and performances by a group of roving street musicians called the Cosmic Sausages. “Every year we’ve tried to do something a little bit better than the year before,” says organizer Mark Brewer. “Keep moving forward; don’t just stay with what you’ve got.” A few years ago, the club persuaded the county council to waive the entry fee and moved the event from the castle square to inside the castle walls. Vendors have since tripled, and attendance has soared. More than 10,000 people now attend the festival, slated for 27 October this year.
Money raised in 2011: US$3,100
Sausages consumed: About 6,500
Years running: 10
Charities include: Lincolnshire Air Ambulance, St Andrew’s Children’s Hospice
Sponsor: Rotary Club of Lincoln Colonia, England
Secret ingredient: Experienced partners. Lincoln Colonia club members work closely with food advocacy group Taste of Lincolnshire, the Lincoln Business Improvement Group, and the local government. “Get on board with organizations that know what they’re doing,” Brewer advises. “They have a structure in place and a way to pull on resources within the community.”
Lincolnshire sausage paprika
1 pound Lincolnshire (or similar) sausages
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon paprika
1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato purée
6 ounces button mushrooms
1 cup stock
Freshly ground pepper
Fry the sausages until browned on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the oil and onions to the pan and cook onions until browned. Add the paprika and cook for 1 more minute, then add the chopped tomatoes and tomato purée. Stir well, add the mushrooms and stock, and season with pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the sausages to the pan. Cook for 10-15 more minutes.
Courtesy of Tastes of Lincolnshire, U.K.
This four-day festival, held over Canada Day weekend in Centennial Park, draws pitmasters from across North America, with names like Hawgs Gone Wild BBQ and Bad Wolf BBQ. They compete on “Ribbers Row,” where visitors sample the selections at barbecue booths and vote for their favorites in several categories. Live bands, fireworks, a haunted house, and other family-oriented attractions help draw crowds. “In a city like Toronto, you’re competing with so many events that you have to stand out,” cochair Justin Di Ciano says. This year’s festival will run from 29 June to 2 July.
Money raised in 2011: US$230,000
Plates of barbecue consumed: 210,000
Years running: 12
Charities include: PolioPlus, Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group
Sponsor: Rotary Club of Etobicoke, Ont., Canada
Secret ingredient: Consultants. Aiming to reinvent the festival in 2011, the club brought in pros to outline a three-year growth strategy with a $500,000 annual earnings goal. “Rotary is a volunteer organization, so putting on a rib fest of this size is a huge logistical challenge,” Di Ciano says. “As business owners, we know a little, but we didn’t want to learn lessons the hard way.”
Larry Smith’s barbecue rub
1 part brown sugar
1 part garlic powder
1 part kosher salt
1 part paprika
Sprinkling of poultry seasoning
Sprinkling of chili powder (adobo, arbol, or chipotle)
Rub on ribs and grill over a combination of hickory, almond, and maple woods.
Larry Smith, a member of the BBQ Nerds team, helped launch the Best Dam Barbecue Challenge. The competition is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Boulder City, Nev., USA, over Memorial Day weekend and offers a $10,000 prize.
Audacious Beer and Cheese Celebration
“Everybody likes beer. But what’s going to draw people and keep them coming back is the experience,” says Tony Griffin, chair of this weekend festival honoring two of Wisconsin’s most popular exports. The event revolves around more than 100 international craft beers, and selections from a dozen artisan cheese makers. The evening before, intimate tastings pair brewers and cheese makers for guided degustation and discussion. Festival founder Mike Brown, a self-proclaimed craft beer “festvangelist,” uses social media and beer-focused websites to promote the event. But he had little experience before he created its online presence, he says. “Just dive in and go for it. You can teach yourself.”
Money raised in 2011: US$13,000
Beer consumed: 300 gallons
Cheese consumed: 240 pounds
Years running: 6
Charities include: PolioPlus, Lake Country area food pantries
Sponsor: Rotary Club of Lake Country-Hartland, Wis., USA
Secret ingredient: Intense networking. Brown spends months before the festival ingratiating himself with cheese makers and brewers. “I’ve shown up to breweries with cheese in hand, and I’ve shown up to cheese places with beers in hand. You begin to forge relationships before asking if they’ll participate.”
Pancakes on the Plaza
Every Fourth of July, Santa Fe Rotarians team up with the local newspaper to throw an all-day party on the city’s historic square. Five hours of pancake flipping – with the equivalent of 60 8-gallon buckets of batter, cooked over 30 griddles – kicks things off. The rest of the day is packed with music and entertainment, an arts and crafts show, a silent auction, and an antique car show. The event boasts more than 30 sponsors, who are motivated to sign on by the longstanding track record of high attendance, says event cochair Terry Williams-Keffer, known as Queen of the Pancakes.
Money raised in 2011: US$50,000
Pancakes consumed: 20,000
Years running: 37
Charities include: St. Vincent Hospital Foundation, New Mexico Suicide Intervention Project
Sponsor: Rotary Club of Santa Fe, N.M., USA
Secret ingredient: Tradition. Held annually on Independence Day for decades, the event has retained its prominence on Santa Fe’s social calendar, for both volunteers and visitors. But the club works to keep things fresh with menu options such as vegetarian sausage.
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