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Cozy circumstances prevailed for much of the fourth annual Taste of OCC May 1 - held inside the Junior Achievement of Southern Colorado (JA) building this year. The photo here was in the most easterly of the three rooms that were used. Booths offering free food and drink samples to event ticket purchasers were set up on either side.
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Cozy confines as weather moves 4th annual Taste of OCC fundraiser indoors

One of the fundraising opportunities at Taste of OCC was a spinning wheel, in which people could pay $5 for a chance at various prizes (as shown on the wheel). On this spin, event attendee Kathy Sciegel wound up with the "Free Hug" option. She showed she was a good sport... and ready to collect on the prize, with equal enthusiasm shown by spinmeister Robin Roberts, president of Pikes Peak National Bank.
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Cold weather and the threat of snow forced the Taste of OCC fundraiser indoors May 1.
       Organized by the Old Colorado City Foundation (OCCF), the fourth annual event was nevertheless well-attended for its three-hour span, with nearly 500 tickets sold beforehand, plus more than 100 at the door. Taste proceeds are earmarked for improvements to Bancroft Park and Old Town in general.
       The location was the temporarily open space inside the Junior Achievement of Southern Colorado (JA) building in the 2300 block of West Colorado Avenue - about a half-block from the park, where the festival had been scheduled.
       It was a bit of a squeeze. For much of the three-hour event span, people were almost wall-to-wall in an area taking up three large rooms. There were a few attendee complaints about it being excessively cozy, but most found solace in camaraderie, food and drink samples, on-site artists and a live band (the J.Miller Band).
       Dave Van Ness, the OCCF founder and a member of its board, expressed delight at the turnout and an event gross from ticket sales ($30 in advance and $35 at the door) of about $18,000. Also contributing to the total was an auction of creations by about a dozen artists, along with earnings from games people could play for a fee. Additional savings came from volunteers who spent hours planning activities, clearing and setting up the JA space and taking tickets at the door.
       Among the well-known volunteers were Jocelyne Sansing, manager of the Old Colorado City Library; Robin Roberts, president of Pikes Peak National Bank; Welling Clark, president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN); Julie Fabrizio, president of the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) business group; and numerous Westside restaurateurs.
       “The event was good,” Van Ness summed up with a grin.
       Helping make the earnings possible were local restaurant owners, craft brewers and liquor distributors, who donated the
Taking a break from serving out samples at their Taste of OCC booth, Brother Luck, owner of the Brother Luck Street Eats in the 1000 block of West Colorado Avenue, strikes a cheery pose with his chef, Mark Henry.
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food and drink. In addition, the JA leadership allowed its space to be used at no charge.
       Most of the participating restaurants were from Old Colorado City - not a total surprise because Bancroft Park is in their midst.
       Two exceptions were Brother Luck and 503W, both of which are several blocks east of the historic district. Brother Luck, the owner of his namesake restaurant, and Nina Lee, owner of 503W, both gave similar responses when asked about it, saying they feel a tie to OCC and the community around it.
       The OCCF was started in 2013 as a charitable nonprofit by the OCCA, for which Van Ness is the executive director. The OCCF's volunteer board consists of local business and neighborhood leaders (including Fabrizio as president).
       The Taste of OCC has had bad luck with the weather every year except the inaugural in 2013. This is the first time an indoors location was set up as a fallback. However, based on discussions afterward, it will likely be the only time Taste will ever be held in the JA building, because the nonprofit entity - which has been fundraising for a few years on its own behalf - expects to fill the space with realistic, hands-on business “towns” for education programs by this time next year.
       Under consideration going forward is what other fallback indoor locations might be possible on the Westside for Taste, because of the amount of space needed for 600-some people along with more than 40 food or liquor booths.
       A major goal of the OCCF is to build an addition onto the back of the bandshell in Bancroft Park for public, handicapped-accessible restrooms. The foundation has had designs drawn up, but the estimated construction cost of $175,000 is currently out of reach.
       City Parks is interested in the OCCF effort and hopes to start developing a Bancroft Park master plan - a necessary first step - sometime this year, according to department spokesperson Tilah Larson.
LEFT: Tony Raj, owner of La Baguette, slices bread for samplers during Taste of OCC. RIGHT: Artist Eric Fetsch of Febra's works on a painting to be auctioned as part of the event fundraiser. He was one of about a dozen local artists who participated.
Taste of OCC attendees enjoy food and drink samples in the first of the three rooms inside the Junior Achievement building that were used for the event May 1.
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A line stretches east along the north side of Colorado Avenue at about 1 p.m. May 1, as people wait to get into the Taste of OCC event. Junior Achievement allowed its building in the avenue's 2300 block to be a bad-weather fallback for the annual fundraiser for Old Colorado City improvements, which for its first three years had been held in Bancroft Park.
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Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 5/2/16; Business: Events)

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