WATERVILLE — More than 20 restaurants, food carts and organizations will line Main Street next week for the 22nd annual Taste of Waterville, a day-long event celebrating food.

The three-pronged event, featuring quick bites, a la carte dining and an elegant sit-down meal available through a pre-bought ticket annually draws thousands of people to Main Street on Wednesday, Aug. 6.

“It’s kind of like our Black Friday, quite honestly,” said Liz Farley, bar manager at Silver Street Tavern, which features live music throughout the day.

The Taste, sponsored by the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, features activities for kids and adults, with pony rides, bounce houses and face painting for children, while several restaurants will serve drinks and have a happy hour before the beer garden opens in the Concourse at 4 p.m.

Farley and Silver Street Tavern, at the end of Main Street, will cater to the adult crowd throughout the event.

“It’s the farthest away from the kids’ activities, so it’s more on the adult end of the event,” Farley said, adding that seating for the restaurant will extend into Silver and Main streets.

The Taste is Silver Street’s busiest day of the year, Farley said, with roughly three times as much business than on a typical busy summer night.

“It’s always a really good day for us,” Farley said. “It’s by far something we look forward too.”

The event is mostly the same as last, Chamber Executive Director Kim Lindlof said. After a 10-year hiatus, the sit-down elegant dining portion of the event returned last year and its successful return inspired organizers to schedule a similar meal this year, Lindlof said.

She said that the Heritage House of Skowhegan will again cater the event. Common Street is transformed into an elegant restaurant for the evening, and the $45 ticket pays for a formal outdoor dining experience with cloth napkins, glass and silverware.

The four-course meal will begin with lobster, shrimp and crab meat cocktail, followed by a locally sourced salad with greens, apples, maple dressing, candied walnuts, tomatoes and smoked gouda. The entree course is a choice of either pistachio encrusted free-range chicken breast topped with a pistachio cream drizzle or a charred local beef tenderloin with a balsamic glaze and blue cheese crumbles. Both are served with a potato cake and vegetable medley. Dessert is a fresh berry crepe topped with chantilly cream and a chocolate drizzle.

The majority of ingredients will be locally sourced, Lindolf said, thanks to a partnership with Johnny’s Selected Seeds of Winslow.

She said the firm worked with local farmers to provide nearly 400 pounds of local produce.

Cheri Savage, owner of Heritage House, said the restaurant, which also caters events, was excited to partake in the sit-down portion again.

“We did it for years and they did away with that portion for a while, but once they brought it back last year we loved doing it,” Savage said, adding that the off-scene cooking may be difficult for some restaurants not attuned to that type of preparation. “I understand why a lot of restaurants that don’t do outside catering wouldn’t want to join in,” she said. “It’s something you really need to be familiar doing.”

Savage said the change of scenery and fact that it’s always on a Wednesday night, while most of the restaurant’s catering events are weekend-based, that bring her and the Skowhegan-based restaurant back.

The main addition to this year’s event is a meatball eating contest held by Amici’s Cucina, an Italian restaurant on Main Street.

“We were trying to come up with a promotional idea for the event and I have a couple employees that really sell our meatballs and we talked about the idea of a meatball-eating contest,” said Mary Carpinito, owner of Amici’s.

They researched the idea and saw that other restaurants in the country have held similar events, so they went ahead with the idea, with an eye toward community service. The event costs $25 to enter, with all profits going to the Greater Waterville Area Food Bank. The winning contestant gets a trophy and a $100 gift card to Amici’s.

Contestants can apply for the competition at Amici’s by filling out a form waiving medical liability. The contest will be either three or five minutes long, Carpinito said, and with two-ounce meatballs lightly coated in marinara sauce.

“We’re preparing about 500 to 600 meatballs,” Carpinito said.

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @jessescardina

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