Taste of Forsyth award winners:
• Best appetizer: Mia Ristorante Italiano’s barbecue flatbread pizza
• Best entrée: Tam’s Backstage crab cake and Broadway pasta
• Best dessert: Ice Cream Social’s strawberry shortcake ice cream
• Best presentation: Rio Balsas’ tuna tostado
• Best decorated booth: Mellow Mushroom
Source: Taste of Forsyth organizers
Thousands of food lovers turned out for the Taste of Forsyth on Saturday.
Dave Horton, director of the Cumming Fairgrounds, said crowds were strong for the event, held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the fairgrounds.
“It’s been a tremendous turnout,” he said. “We’ve had a crowd ever since we opened and I expect we’ll have a great crowd until we end.”
Since the event was free to attend, Horton said it was difficult to get a specific attendance count, but estimated that it drew at least 10,000 people.
“It’s hard to tell when you don’t do a ticket, but it’s been a solid crowd all day long and there’ve been lines all day long,” he said. “So conservatively, it’ll be 10,000 to 12,000 and it could be pushing 15,000.”
Visitors to Taste of Forsyth had a chance to sample a wide range of fare, from barbecue and burritos to pizza and soup, from about 25 different vendors. They came from Forsyth and surrounding counties.
Many of the vendors brought dessert items like ice cream, cupcakes and pastries and deep-fried brownies.
Jason Payne, kitchen manager with Fox’s Pizza Den on Market Place Boulevard, said this was the first year the eatery participated.
“We wanted to come so everybody in Forsyth County and Cumming can see and give our pizza a try and hopefully come into the restaurant to enjoy what we’re doing,” he said.
“I’ve been making pizza since I was 19 years old and I’m 32, and I really love doing it. How can you not love pizza?”
Doug Franks, owner of Deep Fried Brownies in Acworth, said this was the third year he had taken part.
He decided to add some new decedent treats for this year’s event.
“We have the red velvet with cream cheese glaze, and … we’re doing fried Oreos too, so we have the traditional and the red velvet Oreos too with the cream cheese or the powdered sugar.”
Jarret Reid stayed busy most of the day manning Ice Cream Social’s cotton candy machine, while some of the other Bethelview Road shop employees handled the ice cream and cupcake stations.
“We’re trying to defend our best dessert title, so we’ve made a new strawberry shortcake ice cream,” said Reid, one of the owners.
But probably the most asked for flavor, he added, was the shop’s “Da Bomb” ice cream.
“It’s got Oreos, brownies, peanut butter cups, butterscotch and caramel,” he said. “We’ve had the shop for so long that I don’t eat very much ice cream anymore. But seriously, this is the one flavor that I can’t stop eating.”
Ultimately, though, it was the shortcake ice cream that held onto the coveted dessert title.
Prizes were also presented for the best appetizer, entrée, presentation and decorated booth.
Rio Balsas took the best presentation award for its tuna tostado, while the barbecue flatbread pizza from Mia Ristorante Italiano won best appetizer.
Tam’s Backstage earned the top entrée award for its crab cake and Broadway pasta, while Mellow Mushroom was recognized for having the best decorated booth.
Vendors sold samples for $1 to $4, making the event an affordable outing for most.
Horton said that factor, combined with several kid-friendly activities such as a touch-a-truck area and puppet shows, made the day popular for families.
Another big draw was the event’s Easter egg hunts, which began at last year’s festival due to the proximity of Easter Sunday.
Horton said event organizers put out about 50,000 chocolate eggs between three hunts, each for a different age range.
“The Easter egg hunt keeps families here a little longer,” he said. “Then we’ll have good lines [at the food vendors] all the way until we end.”
Joe and Holly Maes brought their 3-year-old daughter, Morgan, to the event.
“We wanted to come and try some new foods from the area and to let her do the Easter egg hunt,” Joe Maes said, noting that the family just moved to Forsyth County about five months ago from Las Vegas.
Mom and dad munched on smoky ribs from Williamson Brothers Barbecue, while Morgan seemed to most enjoy the eatery’s french fries.
The whole family liked the cones from Ice Cream Social.
“We love this,” Holly Maes said. “We’ve had some very good food today.”
Added Joe Maes: “We’ll definitely be back next year.”