Yum! Kiwanis food festivals

Kiwanians love to eat, so food events are a natural for club fundraising. Dig into this sampling of four successful Kiwanis food festivals.

If it’s succulent, juicy, yummy, ice-cold, sinus-clearing habañero hot, crispy, crunchy, smooth, creamy, decadent, sweet, sour, salty, one-of-a-kind, world’s best, deep-fried, stewed, baked, grilled, seared, home-grown, tasty, taste-bud tempting or the most delicious dish this side of a five-star Parisian restaurant, a Kiwanis club sells it.

Whether for hospitalized children, school resources, a new playground for the park, scholarships, camps, Scout troops or The Eliminate Project, food festivals feed funds into Kiwanis clubs’ service treasuries.

It’s time to eat!

Kiwanis Crawfish Boil Cedar Creek Lake Tx 050716
Robert Render sucks on a bug during the Kiwanis Krawfish Boil in Cedar Creek Lake, Texas.

Good Eats

Crawfish Boil • Cedar Creek Lake, Texas

Photos by Jaime R. Carrero

If you’re ever at Cedar Creek Lake, you may want to cast a line for catfish and crappie on the reservoir or photograph a beautiful sunsets. But if you’re at Cedar Creek Lake on the first Saturday of May, hustle over to the Mabank Pavilion and suck down some juicy mudbugs at the Cedar Creek Lake Car Show and Kiwanis Krawfish Boil. For sure.

Cars, trucks and motorcycles arrive before 8 a.m., but by mid-morning, veteran attendees start heading to the Kiwanis booth for crawfish and all the trimmings. When they sell out—and they will—they’re gone.

The car show and boil is a cooperative event between the chamber of commerce and the Kiwanis club. The event promotes the area’s lakeside living and recreation while raising funds for Kiwanis-supported programs that benefit children.

“We were looking for another way to raise funds and have fun doing so,” says 13-year Krawfish Boil Chair Lisa Rhodes. “Several members went to another, well-established crawfish boil, came back and we implemented our plan and lost money.

The club, she explains, ordered 1,200 pounds of crawfish. When the day was done, 700 pounds remained.

“After regrouping and some modification in our ordering, we are now selling all we buy—an average of 1,200 pounds— in six hours,” Rhodes says.




Hot and spicy

Not just peppers, this red-hot fundraiser also showcases the talents of local food and craft vendors, musicians and sponsors.
Pepper Festival • St. Martinville, Louisiana

Photos by Brad Bowie

You probably won’t catch George “Coach” Choplin Jr. in the pepper-eating contest. The 2014–16 St. Martinville Kiwanis Club president doesn’t mind a bit of fire in his Cajun dishes, but he’d rather watch local officials sweat bullets as they suck down homegrown cayennes and imported habañeros. “That’s when you find out what they’re really made of,” he laughs. A 25-year tradition, the festival nets about US$35,000 annually for a full plate of causes, including Every Child a Swimmer, bike safety, sports programs and a foster children’s Christmas party.

“We have something for everyone,” Choplin says. “There’s something for the young and something for the old.” In addition to pepper-enhanced foods and a backyard barbecue cookoff, guests can dance to zydeco, Cajun or rock music while youngsters enjoy carnival rides and games. Anyone can walk or race in the 5K fun run and shop the craft booths. But only the bravest of the brave dare to enter the pepper-eating contest.



Zia Latham, 6, takes a bite out of a rib at the 2015 Cheyenne Kiwanis Rib Fest in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The festival included a rib competition, car show and live music.

Finger-lickin’ good

From chefs battling for the best ribs to classic car owners competing for bragging rights, this Wyoming festival is one savory fundraiser.
Rib Fest • Cheyenne, Wyoming

Photos by Erin Hull

They’re called ribbers. They’re down-to-the-bone specialists. At the Cheyenne Kiwanis Rib Fest, you’ll find the best of the best rib chefs.

“All (competitors) have won (US) national barbecue cooking contests and have been featured on national TV and radio,” a 2015 festival news release promised.

“Rasta Joe” Alexander (left) brings his Jamaican-style  sauce—and a long list of awards—all the way from Plymouth, Indiana. A Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, transplant from Sydney, Australia, Paul “Aussom Aussie” Mackay is a frequent contender on the U.S.-Canada rib festival circuit with his fruit-based sauce.

Yet there are local favorites who have the chops (pun intended) to compete with the big pigs. Tasty Bones smokes their ribs up to 20 hours over hickory wood, convincing one Facebook fan to rave, “off-the-hook delicious.” Johnson’s BBQ, home of the Thermonuclear Sauce, has claimed more than 120 national awards in the past five years.

While prospective customers review ribbers’ achievements and honors (opposite page) before ordering, other ticket-holders gather at the car show. A part of the festival, the event hands out awards for impressive imports, restored antiques and gleaming trucks, motorcycles, lowriders, muscle cars and rat rods.

Revenues from this and other club fundraisers allow the Cheyenne Kiwanis Club Foundation to make a significant impact in the community. Recent grants, for example, helped fund a mobile children’s museum, after-school enrichment and construction of a residence for homeless youth.



At the Webster Garlic Festival in Webster, New York (near Rochester) on September 12, 2015.

A clove story

Sometimes called a “stinking rose,” garlic gets its due at this new york festival.
Garlic Festival • Webster, New York
Photos by Mike Bradley

The adage “too many cooks spoil the broth” does not apply to folks in Webster, New York. The proverb “the more the merrier” is more apt.

When their community dreamed of building a US$1.5 million Miracle League baseball park for children with disabilities, Rotary, Lions and the Webster Kiwanis Club came together this past year for the inaugural Webster Garlic Festival. Despite two days of torrential rain, the clubs netted US$13,000 for the sports field.

“The cooperation was just phenomenal,” says Kiwanis club president Roger Awe. “I’m relatively new here, and seeing the community come together like that, it was a great feeling.”

The three clubs set up an executive committee with one representative each from Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions. “We didn’t have a template for putting on a garlic festival, so we met once a week,” Awe says. ” This year, we have a bit of experience, and the committee is meeting less frequently.”

One lesson the Kiwanians, Rotarians and Lions learned is not to trust the weather. This year, the festival is moving to a recreation center with indoor and outdoor facilities. Rain or shine, visitors will enjoy music, garlic lectures, cooking demonstrations and crafts. Of course, there will be garlic too. And all things garlic: garlic soups, garlic stews, garlic salads, garlic scapes, garlic wreaths, garlic bulbs, garlic, garlic, garlic.

This story originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of Kiwanis magazine.

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