For 16 years, without much thought, Chef Steve Wecker, owner of Iron Bridge Wine Co., has prepared food for Taste of Howard County, a fundraiser for Gilchrist Center Howard County, a 10-bed inpatient facility that offers hospice care and help for those with serious illnesses.
“It’s part of what we do,” said Wecker, whose suite of county restaurants — Iron Bridge, Mutiny Pirate Bar and Island Grill, 18th and 21st, and Cure — have prepared numerous dishes for different causes throughout the years. “We’re trying to be supportive of the community. We try to do a lot.”
Four years ago, however, Wecker experienced firsthand the services Gilchirst offered when his father, Charlie Wecker, needed them.
“I do not know what I would have done without them,” Wecker said. “All of a sudden, I realized what they meant to people.”
This year, Wecker will also act as auctioneer for the event, which will be held at 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, at Turf Valley Country Club.
Wecker is quick to admit that he is not an auctioneer by trade, but he said he knows what he has to do when he goes to auction off the seven items offered that night.
“It’s not about saying to folks, ‘You get a diamond necklace,’ ” Wecker said. “I basically say, ‘Forget about what you’re getting and write a big, big, check to Gilchrist Center. It’s an organization there when you need them the most.’ ”
Wecker credits his father for instilling in him the willingness to help others.
“He was that guy you wanted to know,” Wecker said. “He came from nothing and never forgot that. He never stopped giving. If you needed help, he showed up.”
This year’s Taste of Howard will be a little different, according to Shannon Wollman, senior director of development for Gilchrist.
“After 34 years, we decided to switch things up a bit,” Wollman said. “Instead of a silent auction, we made it a casino night. People will have the opportunity to play and win prize tickets.”
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Casino table games including blackjack, poker, roulette and craps will be offered.
“There will be show girls and there could be an appearance from Elvis,” Wollman said.
Items for the live auction include a diamond necklace, round-trip airfare for two on Southwest Airlines and tickets to Lady Gaga’s live show in Las Vegas.
All proceeds from the event will go to Gilchrist Center Howard County and patient care, Wollman said. The event typically raises $200,000 annually, Wollman said, and it has raised over $5 million since its beginning 34 years ago.
Food, of course, is one of the highlights of the event. The following local restaurants will offer samples of their cuisine at the event: 18th & 21st, Absolutely Perfect Catering, AIDA Bistro & Wine Bar, Alexandra’s American Fusion, Cured, Dandelion Bakery Bistro, Eggspectation, Hudson Coastal, Jailbreak Brewery, The King’s Contrivance, Konstantine’s Greek Taverna, Leelynn’s Dining Room & Lounge, Lost Ark Distilling, Mutiny Pirate Bar and Island Grille, Orinoco Coffee & Tea, Ten Oaks Tavern, The Capital Grill, The Iron Bridge Wine Company, The Turn House, Season’s 52, Scoop & Paddle Ice Cream Co., Tino’s Italian Bistro, Touche Touchet Bakery and Pastry Shoppe and Touche Touchet Cafe.
“It has really become an iconic event in Howard County,” Wollman said.
Taste of Howard County will take place at 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, at Turf Valley Resort, 2700 Turf Valley Road, Ellicott City. Tickets are $100. For more information, call 443-849-8245.