By May S. Ruiz
How cool is it to sample the various food and drinks from over 35 different restaurants and beverage companies all gathered in one place? And how great would you feel knowing that you are donating to a good cause while enjoying such bounty?
La Salle High School gives you the opportunity to indulge your gastronomic appetite and satisfy your philanthropic inclinations at its bi-annual ‘Taste of La Salle’ from 6:30 to 9:00 pm on Saturday, March 24. Advance ticket price is $50 and $75 at the door.
Now in its fourth year, ‘Taste of La Salle’ has attracted popular Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley establishments including Altadena Town and Country Club, Casa del Rey, Colette, Domenico’s, El Cholo Café, El Portal, The Peacock Grille, Roy’s, StoneFire Grill, Twohey’s; breweries and wine growers from farther afield like Craft Beer Cellar, Lagunitas, Stone Brewing, E & J Gallo Wine, San Antonio Winery, and Wilson Creek Winery.
‘Taste of La Salle’ will take place on campus (3880 E. Sierra Madre Blvd., Pasadena on the corner of Michillinda Avenue) with students directing people to three different check-in tables to make for an easy flow of foot traffic to the party. All vendors will be set up along the perimeter of the dining pavilion and atrium to give everyone room to walk around, visit the various stalls, and delight on all the various offerings for the night.
Parking will be available on both lots on campus – the upper lot on Sierra Madre Blvd. and the lower parking lot on Michillinda – the field will also be open, and there will be parking on surrounding streets.
Kristen Schultz, Assistant Director of Institutional Advancement and Director of Alumni Relations, spearheads this delectable event. She says, “We started ‘Taste of La Salle’ in 2012. It was deliberately a bi-annual event because we recognized that these vendors are also asked by various non-profit institutions all the time to donate and we didn’t want to burn them out. And while other organizations charge vendors a fee for participation, we don’t; they provide the food, drinks, and the manpower to staff their table so they give quite a lot as it is. At the same time, because it’s only every other year, the community looks forward to it and is more hyped about it.
The incentive for the vendors is the heavy publicity we do for it. We send out invitations to about 7,000 people in the San Gabriel Valley, we include the event on our social media feeds – Twitter and Instagram; send emails every other week promoting it; mail postcards with the logo of participating establishments, advertise it in a local magazine which reaches 15,000 people.
It benefits restaurants because we really target San Gabriel Valley so people who come to the event can patronize these establishments later. We always do a thank you and a follow-up with all our participating establishments and have gotten extremely positive feedback – that they had a great experience and would like to come back; that our event was every well done and organized. Several past vendors will be here again this year.
We had 23 vendors in our first event and we had no idea what we were doing. It was hugely successful and it gave us room to build upon that success. It expanded every year and we now have 39 vendors. But we really don’t intend to grow it any larger than that because we want to keep it community-friendly and preserve the school atmosphere as well. We expect between 300 to 400 people; two years ago we had 360 and we’ve attracted more each time. I know we’ll have about 350 but we’re hoping to reach 400 attendance.”
Food and drinks are not the only items on offer. There are also drawing opportunities for some really awesome packages. The Grand Prize is ‘Eat Out for a Year,’ which is an array of gift cards to local restaurants valued at over $2,000. There is a ‘Travel and Wine Lover’ prize, a Temecula Getaway and Culinary and Wine Pairing for 4 in Paso Robles. A ‘Stock the Bar’ prize is an assortment of premium libations; a ‘Work it Off Fitness Basket’ gives the winner over $700 worth of gift certificates to local fitness classes and gyms; a ‘Staycation’ is a one-night stay at the Embassy Suites in Arcadia, $100 gift card to The Derby Restaurant and four Club House passes to the Santa Anita Race Track; and more.
Tickets for the drawing are available online – $10 for one ticket; $25 for five; $50 for 15; $100 for 40. People can go online to buy tickets to the event and for the drawing at the same time or separately. Drawing is done at the actual event but they don’t have to be present to win.
‘Taste of La Salle’ takes lengthy planning, as one can imagine. Relates Schultz, “We start preparing this in the summer, around May and June. Any time we do an all-school event we obviously have to work it into the calendar. And there are several of them like the plays and the musical which need all the school facilities. We picked March the first time because it was open.
The school has two fund-raisers: the golf tournament in the fall and the Crystal Ball in May and we didn’t want to compete with those two events. We were cognizant of the fact that we were asking money from the very same pool of parents. We also made sure we kept the drawing items food-themed because we didn’t want to take away from what the two other events are also requesting.”
Adds Schultz, ‘Taste of La Salle’ is the only event that the Alumni Association puts on. It’s also the only way people can donate, they can’t write a check towards the scholarship. We ask the scholarship recipients to attend and we profile them so people can see where their money is going.
It was created to have an alumni fund going to current students from alumni donors. When this began, we awarded two college scholarships to two members of the class of 2013. It is a one-time scholarship to help them with their first-year expenses and focuses on service, citizenship and leadership, not on their GPA.
We invite students to apply in the spring of their junior year and they’re asked to give short answers to questions related to their leadership, their impact on the greater community, what happened in their years at La Salle, their future plans and how they will remain engaged after they graduate. I take out all the personal information about the applicants so the 17-member Alumni Association Executive Board makes its decision based purely on the answers given by the students.
I check in with the scholarship recipients six months into their first year of college to get an update on how they’re doing, etc. While I continue to communicate with them periodically during their college career, there are no requirements on their part. Although I hope they stay in touch and most of them do!
In 2016 we offered the first incoming heritage scholarship to a member of the class of 2020, who is now a sophomore. This is a four-year scholarship as long as the student retains a 3.0 (B average), remains active in school activities, and maintains an exemplary discipline record.
The criteria are similar for the incoming scholarships but obviously with some differences because we’re asking 13-year olds versus 17-year old students – community service and involvement, why do they want to be a part of La Salle, what difference can they do here, what La Salle means to them.
We have continued to offer two college scholarships every year since 2012 to the graduating class and one freshman scholarship since 2016 to the incoming class. We just recently named our incoming scholar for the class of 2022 who will start at La Salle this August. The class of 2019 is currently applying for next year’s College Scholarship. We have 12 college scholarships and three freshman scholarships to date.”
‘Taste of La Salle’ promises to be a fun and enjoyable way to spend an evening. That it goes a long way towards providing assistance to future generations of community-engaged and socially responsible citizens only makes it doubly worth our generous support.