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Alligator, anyone? Taste of Tacoma creates the city’s biggest menu

Hungry patrons check out Taste of Tacoma

Thousands of hungry people descended upon Point Defiance Park for Taste of Tacoma.
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Thousands of hungry people descended upon Point Defiance Park for Taste of Tacoma.

Chris and Dale Homberger don’t see always eye-to-eye on food but it hasn’t hurt their marriage.

Every year, the couple make the trek from their Yakima home to the annual Taste of Tacoma food festival at Point Defiance Park. She comes for the alligator; he makes a beeline for the deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“This is amazing stuff,” Chris said Saturday as she worked her way down a skewer of deep fried alligator meat.

Dale dug into his PB&J ,which he generously shared with a hungry reporter.

That might be the beauty of the annual event which concludes Sunday. There are enough options for everyone. More than 40 restaurants and food vendors are selling everything from Krispy Kreme bacon cheese burgers to sushi burritos.

The staff at Piggly’s Barbecue lured customers with a steady stream of meat-tinged smoke wafting from their large operation.

Although owner Craig Sawyers is based in Phoenix, he said he spends the summer in the Pacific Northwest traveling from event to event.

He estimated he barbecues 700 pounds of pork and beef and 1,000 pounds of turkey legs daily. His most popular item? Fries, especially one called Bacon Riley with cheese and, you guessed it, bacon.

It wasn’t all food at the event. Across from Piggly was a three-story tall 5-Hour Energy drink booth staffed by frenetic 20-somethings eager to pass out and occasionally try free samples. An energetic and amplified barker urged passers-by to play carnival-like games.

Nearby, in a nearly catatonic state, was three-year-old Anthony Vendetti of Tacoma who held a waffle cone with alternating layers of vanilla and chocolate ice cream.

Anthony would not respond to questions from a reporter or his mother but instead rhythmically licked his ice cream like a horse at a salt lick. He ocean green eyes stared at something beyond the horizon.

Entertainment options included a carnival for kids, music and cooking demos for adults.

Summer Snyder and best friend Kendra Wolfe, both 12 and of Spanaway, were entertained by the cotton candy bunnies Matt Kim of Sweet Art was making for them.

Kendra seemed content to admire the artwork but Summer was torn between having her bunny and eating it too.

“It’s so cute,” Summer cried when Kim handed her his creation. “I don’t want to eat it but I do.”

The indecision lasted only seconds.

“It tastes good,” Summer said. The bunny maintained its grin despite now missing an ear.

The weather, which was in the high 50s under cloudy skies, put a damper on snow cone sales and other cool treats.

Near the park’s lake, Rose Packer was selling tropical drinks made with pineapple and mango at her Otai Kingdom booth. The kingdom refers to Tonga — her homeland.

“We’re praying the sun will come out,” Packer said as she passed out samples of a watermelon-based drink.

GETTING THERE

Free parking and transportation to the park is available on Pierce Transit’s Taste Express from Tacoma Community College. Buses will run every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday. The festival has a bicycle corral for bikes and skateboards. There is no parking available at the park and only limited street parking is available.

TASTE OF TACOMA

What: 40-plus restaurants and food vendors and 70-plus bands.

Where: Point Defiance Park in Tacoma

When: Saturday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Information: Visit tasteoftacoma.com

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