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Experience 'Tastes-of-the-Valley,' Featuring Local Restaurants

Proceeds from Rotary Club of Avon-Canton's annual fundraiser will benefit local charities. Acclaimed Avon-based band The Colbys will perform, so get in the dancing mood!

When Avon Rotarian Donald Bonner founded Tastes-of-the-Valley five years ago, he wanted the event to appeal to all of the senses.

Fusing local food and drinks with music, the Rotary Club of Avon-Canton fundraiser has become a frequently sold-out event that is expected to bring in at least 300 people this year.

“For the first four years, it included four or five wine tasting tables, five restaurants, a string quartet and it was always held at the Avon Community Center,” Bonner said.

This year, Devra Sisitsky – who co-chairs the event planning committee with Capri Frank – said that Tastes-of-the-Valley will instead take place just over the Avon town line at the Tower Ridge Country Club in Simsbury. The Rotary Club is moving the event to accommodate more people and expand the fundraiser for local charities, she said.

The March 23 event may feature as many as a dozen restaurants and food businesses in the Farmington Valley.  Local eateries that have committed to offering food samples so far include Season’s Restaurant, Max a Mia, The Grist Mill and The Meat House in Avon; Evergreens Restaurant, Maple Tree Café and Abigail’s Grille and Wine Bar in Simsbury; and DISH ‘n Dat and La Trattoria in Canton. M&R Liquors in Avon is also providing wine and beer for the event.

Event proceeds go into the Rotary Club’s Community Fund and will be donated to local organizations.  Avon Dollars for Scholars and Gifts of Love are just a few of the past benefactors.

The Rotary Club has booked The Colbys, featuring lead singer Bev Rohlehr, to perform and there will be dancing. Rohlehr and her husband, John Colby – both of Avon – comprise the New Orleans jazz and rock and roll sensation, often collaborating with other musicians.

“They have a huge following,” said Sisitsky, who is friends with Rohlehr, said.

Rohlehr has sung at the Newport Jazz Festival and with Mel Lewis' Jazz Orchestra and the National Jazz Ensemble, according to The Colbys website. Colby won a Grammy award for his work on Ken Burns’ The Civil War documentary soundtrack and is also an Emmy award-winning composer, the band’s website states. He has been the ESPY Awards music director “since its inception” and composed the Sportscenter theme song and many other television sports tunes, according to the website.

The Rotary Club is still accepting donations for its silent auction and anyone interested can contact committee member Tim Barthel at timbarthel@gmail.com for more information.

The evening is a great way to see friends, have fun, try food from Farmington Valley restaurants and give to area charities, Sisitsky said.

Bonner said “people are becoming more charitable because the economy’s improving” and he is hoping for a “record year” of ticket sales.

Most recently, Farmington Valley Rotary Clubs jointly raised $14,000 and collected a truckload of supplies for Hurricane Sandy victims in Staten Island.

“We give to a whole variety of things constantly,” Sisitsky said. 

Tickets for Tastes-of-the-Valley cost $50 or $75 to upgrade to the VIP level. VIP ticketholders are invited to a champagne tasting from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The regular event runs from 7 to 10:30 p.m. Tower Ridge Country Club is located at 140 Nod Rd. in the Weatogue section of Simsbury.

For ticket information, call committee member Dr. Joanne Santiago at 860-673-2225. Anyone interested in becoming an event sponsor can contact Sisitsky at devralee@comcast.net. Tickets and sponsorships can be purchased at http://www.rotaryclubofavon-canton.info/totv.html.

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