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VALPARAISO — Region residents gave their taste buds a treat at the annual Taste of Valparaiso Thursday at the Porter County Expo Center.

More than a thousand people joined in tasting food from 32 restaurants with locations in and around Valparaiso.

Kappa Kappa Kappa, Inc., also known as Tri Kappa, hosted the annual event for the 29th year. Tri Kappa was established as an Indiana sorority in 1901 and established the Valparaiso Iota Chapter in 1903. Its 117 local members work to "promote charity, culture and education."

Some of the restaurants at the event included Asparagus, Don Quijote, Lincoln Flats and Journeyman Distillery. The lines were long and continuous around the inside of the Expo Center, but people were smiling and greeting each other as they walked around the building.

Lynn and Buddy Lee had only been at the event for 15 minutes and already had tasted food from three booths. They said it's a fun event and that's why they bought tickets.

"We like supporting all the area businesses," Buddy Lee said. "And (to) have dinner and network with people."

Some of the restaurants have been participating since the beginning and others are brand new and "hoping to share their new products and businesses," said Kaye Frataccia, one of this year's event chairs. Laura Bryan and Lisa Kusbel are also 2019 event chairs.

Harvest Circle Workshop, the makers of harvest superfood balls, was there at the event for the first time. Owner Apryl Niksch said she wanted to market her "new bakes." Niksch started selling "organic specialty baking" at the beginning of May. She had "signature minis in vanilla bourbon, chocolate and vegan/gluten-free hummingbird."

The evening's entertainment featured music by VHS Orchestra, a silent auction and a 50/50 raffle. While people walked around to each booth sampling the food, Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas serenaded the crowd with his guitar, singing songs like "Daughters" by John Mayer.

More than 60 items were up for bidding in the silent auction and Kearney Szevery said the value of the items was over $7,800. Bidding occurred until an hour before the event's end. Items to bid on ranged from sport tickets to soap baskets.

Rise N' Roll Bakery also hosted a booth at the Taste, their table filled with cups of pie such as strawberry rhubarb. Manager Kat Navarro said cutting up samples of pies took her team around seven hours to prepare. The bakery also came to last year's event.

"We enjoy any opportunity getting involved in the community," Navarro said.

All of Tri Kappa's profits from the event are redistributed into the community "through local grants, charitable contributions, and scholarships for students pursuing higher education," according to the group's website. The group hopes to raise $50,000 from the event. 

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Emily covers Porter County news and features for The Times. A transplant from NW Ohio to NWI, Emily loves talking to people and hearing their stories. She graduated from the University of Toledo in 2018 and believes all dogs are good dogs.