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Taste of Amherst opens Thursday on the Town Commons

Christopher Hirata, 4, of Amherst, bites into fried dough with strawberries and powdered sugar from The Pub during the opening day of the Taste of Amherst last year.

JERREY ROBERTS Christopher Hirata, 4, of Amherst, bites into fried dough with strawberries and powdered sugar from The Pub during the opening day of the Taste of Amherst last year. Purchase photo reprints »

The Taste of Amherst begins Thursday, running from 5 to 9 p.m. on the Town Common. It resumes Friday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and concludes on Father’s Day from noon to 4 p.m.

“We’re working this year on enhancing what we’ve gotten right the last couple of years,” said Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tony Maroulis.

The Taste had a run of beautiful weather a year ago, featuring dry, sunny, warm conditions.

“If the weather holds, there’s no reason to change anything,” Maroulis said.

While staples such as Amherst Chinese and The Pub are back as vendors, this year’s event will welcome newcomers, such as the Amherst to Go booth, featuring food from Moti, White Hut and Lime Red Teahouse restaurants and J. Gumbo and FroyoWorld.

Antonio’s pizza, a restaurant that has typically not participated in the Taste, will serve gourmet slices. “We’re excited to welcome them,” Maroulis said.

For the first time, the event will have a farm participate. Simple Gifts Farm in North Amherst will have salads and Vietnamese sandwiches.

Chef Bill Collins will again lead cooking demonstrations, with Jerry Jolly of The Pub and Dino Giordano of 30Boltwood also showing how to make signature items. A beer and wine tent with Rafter’s craft beers and Atkins wine will be set up Friday and Saturday nights.

For children, Forest Park Zoo will be on hand Sunday, with bounce houses, rock climbing walls, pony rides by Muddy Brook Farm, and story times by Reader-to-Reader of Amherst during other days of the event.

Bands that will be featured on the 93.9 The River Soundstage during the four-day festival include Trailer Park, And the Kids, Sun Parade and Primate Fiasco.

One of the prominent features of the Taste will be the continuing efforts to reduce the amount of waste generated. Last year, the event successfully cut the amount of garbage by about 1,500 pounds, down from the 2,500 to 3,000 pounds generated.

“The rule of the event this year is trash will not be coming from our event vendors,” Maroulis said.

Participating restaurants will serve their food on plates and utensils that can be composted or recycled. All bottles will also be recyclable.

“We had been a little behind other events in the Valley, but we beat our solid waste projection last year by a considerable margin and hope to do so again this year,” said John Thibbits, chairman of the organizing committee.

This year organizers are working with Amend Organics of Pelham and the town’s Recycling and Refuse Management Committee to set up three sorting stations where people will deposit their waste. A fourth station will be manned in the Beer and Wine tent.

Maroulis said that he is confident that a 15-yard Dumpster, reduced from last year’s 30-yard Dumpster, is all that will be needed for the trash, which is generated only from outside sources.

Maroulis said the Taste remains an important community event, promoting the town and its businesses. “It a whole lot of fun. It’s the feel-good event of the year,” he said.

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