Rotary’s Taste of South Pasadena a Whopping Success

South Pasadena Planning Director David Watkins visited Griffin’s of Kinsdale. Photo by Harry Yadav

The 7th annual Taste of South Pasadena is being touted as the largest, most successful ever by event officials.

The walking event, which 22 restaurants and 12 wineries along Mission Street and Fair Oaks Boulevard participated in Tuesday night, eclipsed previous years’ attendance records with more than 1,000 attendees, raising about $35,000 for charities of the Rotary Club of South Pasadena, according to event coordinator Marchelle Sellers.

“This is our best one ever,” Sellers said Tuesday night during the event. “We are way over 1,000 people. This is the biggest one we’ve ever done. Seriously.”

The success of the event does not surprise Dan Watson, president of the Rotary of South Pasadena.

“Advanced ticket sales were ahead of where we were last year,” Watson told The Review. “We expect to do very well.”

Last year, the Rotary club had 850 attendees, a record at that time, Watson said, and raised about $25,000.

South Pasadena Planning Director David Watkins visited Griffin’s of Kinsdale. Photo by Harry Yadav

The event raises money for various charities supported by the local Rotary, including a water project in Uganda and building a family home in Tecate, Mexico in a single day.

“This event tonight…will fund a majority of our projects next year,” Watson said. “We do both international projects and local projects.” Rotary International has 1.2 million members with 33,000 clubs around the world while the South Pasadena club has 34 members, according to Watson.

“We have for many years gone to…Tecate, Mexico, and built a house in a day,” Watson said. “We’ll leave next Friday…drive across the border and literally build a house in one day, hand the keys over to a family in the afternoon and come back that evening. We’ve changed the lives not only of the people that got the house but also of those who’ve never done it before. It’s truly a life-changing experience.”

The club also does much for South Pasadena including scholarships for high school students, and sponsoring events at the Carnegie Stage at the South Pasadena Library, along with supporting many other local organizations, Watson added.

Live musical performances accompanied certain booths during Tuesday evening’s event. Photo by Harry Yadav

The charities supported by the Rotary was a common theme for many of the vendors that set up shop for attendees to grab a taste of what they have to offer.

Margarita Herrera, co-owner of Yuca’s Pasadena at 1075 South Fair Oaks Blvd. in South Pasadena, echoed that theme.

“We love being here because Rotary does such a good job with all the good work it does for the community,” Herrera said while setting up its tasting booth along Mission Street. “The club is just another reason South Pasadena is such a great city.” Yuca’s Pasadena has been in the city for the past eight months, specializing in Mexican food.

Denise Benach, catering manager for Bristol Farms, 606 Fair Oaks Blvd., agreed with Herrera, saying that South Pasadena is the draw as well.

“This is such a great city to be a part of,” Benach said as she set up her tasting table with sliders and cupcakes, among other items. “We love supporting the community and events like this are great. It’s a great small-town feeling.”

Speaking of cakes, Cindy Nakama, owner of Cake Sensations, 811 Fair Oaks Ave., said the Taste of South Pasadena is a great way to introduce a business to new customers.

Cupcakes courtesy of Bristol Farms; a popular table with its sliders and tasty desserts. Photo by Steve Whitmore

“The Rotary does such good works and South Pasadena is a great city but this is also a way to show people what we do,” Nakama said. “We are going to have a variety of cakes from chocolate, marble and carrot cake.”

What about the people who tasted the food and drank the wines? If the people interviewed by The Review Tuesday night are any indication, they were loving it.

Kenneth Thornton, 58, came from the Inland Empire because a friend invited him. He said he’d never been to this event before.
“I like it,” Thornton said. “The people are nice, friendly. I love the food and the wine. It really gives you a sense of a small town.”

Farm Fresh To You is an internet-based company that delivers fresh vegetables and fruit to your door. More information is at Photo by Steve Whitmore

South Pasadena native Kerry Gordonson, who now lives on the Westside because the weather is cooler, said South Pasadena offers an amazing atmosphere in the middle of urban sprawl.

“I’ve been coming to this event here for a couple of years,” Gordonson said over a glass of red wine Tuesday night. “South Pasadena has a small town feeling much like a Midwest small town, but it’s 15 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. It’s unique in that way. I miss it.”