The Thorntons were able to sample a variety of foods from dozens of Jacksonville restaurants before heading inside the stadium for a community pep rally for Jacksonville State University and area high schools.
“I’m impressed that all these vendors are willing to put up this much for everybody,” Craig Thornton said of the donations. “I really appreciate it.”
All proceeds from the fundraiser go to the Jacksonville Christian Outreach Center, which will use the money to begin its Christmas fund for low-income children within the 36265 area code.
Kailey Jensen, a senior at the university, was enjoying samples with her friends in front of the stadium Thursday night. “It’s kind of cool how many people came. I think it’s good for the town,” she said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the community and for the smaller restaurants to get their names out there.”
The size of the crowd was a surprise to many at the event, including David Glass, who organized the new incarnation of the six-year-old Taste of the Town fundraiser, which normally draws about 200 people. He had no counts on customers Thursday evening, but estimated at least 1,000 people.
Ted Law of Saks made his way to Jacksonville to join his son and grandchildren for the evening. Law said the chicken wings from Struts and Jefferson’s were the highlight of the foods he tasted and the desserts donated by the JCOC’s member churches were delicious. “I’m really surprised it’s as good as it is,” he said. “It turned out beyond my expectations.”
Once visitors got their fill of local restaurant fare, they could head inside the stadium for the community pep rally to support the football teams, cheerleaders and bands of the university and Jacksonville High School, Jacksonville Christian Academy and Pleasant Valley High School.
“It’s a great opportunity for the community to come out and just kind of show their support for one another, for each one of these teams that’s represented here,” said Jacksonville High School head coach Clint Smith. “It’s just a great event, for the community, for the players, for the coaches, for everyone involved.”
Star staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.