by Larry Austin
From all quarters, the first-ever Taste of Grand Island Fall Fest on Saturday was a huge success.
The event drew thousands to the Grand Island Plaza to enjoy food, entertainment, and the unveiling of the Grand Island Mural Project on the backside of the building.
Sam Aceti of Aceti's Wine and Spirits had four wineries on hand for the event, which he called "awesome."
"Look at the people," he said, gesturing at the crowd. Aceti praised the event's organizer, Corey McGowan, who spearheaded both the mural and the festival.
"(McGowan) has done a good job," Aceti said. "I'm already looking forward to next year. It's going to be even bigger and better next year. If you build it they'll come. I believe that's what Grand Island really needed. They're just hungry for something like this."
Muralist Terry Klaaren spent as much time talking to fans who thanked him for his efforts as he did painting his finishing touches on the Grand Island Plaza.
"This crowd is what Grand Island really deserves," said Klaaren. "I mean, this is a great turnout, and I'm sure for all the grief and work and stress that Corey McGowan has gone through, I think this should be a reward here, proof that things happen around here."
"It's a great idea," Emma Mahoney said of the event. She was selling witches hats, used as dining room centerpieces or for trick-or-treaters, for Gramma's Boo-tique,
"It's good," she said of the brisk business. "This is our last batch of hats. It's a great turnout actually."
"The weather has been really fantastic for October," noted Michael Mongan of The Beach House. He added he was pleased with the traffic for the first-ever event, saying that he joined the list of restaurants so that "Maybe some people that haven't been to the Beach House in a while might try our Reuben sandwich or our fish fry. Those our two of our really big-selling items."
Chaz Bulera, owner and chef of the reincarnated Riverstone Grill, brought his crew to the Taste. He and his wife, Kristina, decided to buy the Riverstone, and they are in the process of redesigning the menu, cleaning and redoing the kitchen.
He anticipates reopening the first week of November, and the Taste was a fitting coming out party.
"It's been fantastic," Bulera said of the Taste of Grand Island. "The people on Grand Island are always welcoming us back."
"It's part of what Grand Island is," he said. "Everybody helps each other."