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Merchants delve into new twist on Taste of Okotoks festival

Rather than businesses going downtown to serve up their specialties, the public will go to them in a new event format July 31 to Aug. 10.
Anne-Marie Ouimette
Anne-Marie Ouimette, of Mamie's Treats, is one of 16 food establishments participating in this year's Taste of Okotoks. (Tammy Rollie/Western Wheel)

Sixteen Okotoks food establishments in need of a business boost are digging into the Town’s latest initiative.

The eighth annual Taste of Okotoks festival boasts a new format that has participants dining in or ordering special menu items at participating businesses rather than gathering downtown, in compliance with Alberta Health Services guidelines.

The event runs July 31 to Aug. 10.

Grand Central Bar & Grill general manager Tasha Sailer said the new format fits perfectly with the business’ staffing capabilities, and is a great way to increase exposure during such a difficult economic time for so many.

“This is more of an in-house thing, so this works perfectly,” said Sailer, adding it’s the first year Grand Central participated in the event. “We have a small staff and it was too much for us to try to make it downtown.”

With business in many restaurants slowing down after an initial increase when reopening their doors following the March shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sailer hopes the event will attract more customers to Grand Central. Its feature meal will be one of its most popular menu items - lasagna.

“Right now we’re going through a slow patch so this is a way to get our food out there,” she said. “People like to be a part of something so I think it will bring more business.”

New Mr. Spud Café co-owner John Yu doesn’t expect any change in business during the 11-day event.

“I don’t think we will get more business,” he said. “It will probably be the same.”

When Mr. Spud reopened two months ago, business picked up for the first couple of weeks but then slowed down, said Yu.

“Not many come in,” he said. “A little bit more do take-out, but the inside, not many.”

A frequent Taste of Okotoks participant, Yu hopes the Town's new format will help increase business exposure as they feature their bacon cheeseburger, halibut and homemade iced tea, among other popular menu items.

A new Taste of Okotoks participant is three-week-old business Mamie’s Treats, which will showcase a variety of cotton candy, popcorn and snow cone flavours.

“We just felt like we wanted to get our name out there more and get some advertising so people know we’re here,” said owner Anne-Marie Ouimette. “I’m hoping that we get a lot of foot traffic just to get our presence known that we’re here and we’re here to stay.”

Mamie’s Treats is located next door to Main Street Market and More on McRae Street and focuses on carnival foods. Ouimette has a varied selection of snow cones, popcorn, candy and cotton candy and is working on adding pretzels, mini doughnuts, deep fried food and British candy to her selection.

The Okotoks resident of four years has always been on the sampling side of Taste of Okotoks and looks forward to offering her own products while meeting new people. She plans to have a snow cone stand outside her shop on Sunday.

“I like the fact that Okotoks is innovative and still allows these events to happen but on a different scale, like when they did the parade and people drove by instead,” she said.

Janette Messer, Town of Okotoks community programs and events manager, stated in a press release that hosting this new format provides an opportunity for the Town to support local businesses.

“A thriving food service is critical for Okotoks’ recovery from COVID-19,” she said. “We are eager to help local establishments rebuild and revive business.”

Culinary choices will include, but aren’t limited to, Greek, Chinese, Western, Italian, Thai, Mediterranean, British, East Indian and Japanese.

Participants can submit receipts from their food purchases at participating businesses during the event for an opportunity to win prizes from the Okotoks Art Gallery.

Participating establishments, their menu items and ordering methods, as well as contest details, are available here.

Tammy Rollie, OkotoksToday.ca

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Tammy Rollie

About the Author: Tammy Rollie

Tammy Rollie is a staff reporter at OkotoksToday.ca and the Western Wheel newspaper, focusing on Wheel's West, local arts and culture and entertainment. For story tips contact trollie@okotoks.greatwest.ca
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