It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas as the Towson Chamber of Commerce prepares for its fifth annual Taste of Towson.
The Sept. 17 event comes long before the winter holidays and doesn't have a holiday season theme. But it's very much in the holiday spirit, because the money raised will be used to promote the Towson area as a holiday destination for shoppers and restaurant-goers, and to stage holiday festivities, such as the annual Winter Fest, said Nancy Hafford, executive director of the chamber.
"We want people to go to those (participating) restaurants when they book their holiday parties," Hafford said. And she said, "All the money goes to holiday events."
Last year's Taste of Towson raised about $10,000, about half of the estimated $20,000 that is needed to decorate the streets of downtown Towson for the holidays and to put on events such as Winterfest, Thursday night "Ho! Ho!" happy hours, a Santa's Workshop, special breakfasts with Frosty the Snowman and the Grinch, and Friday night cookouts, in which Smores are heated over open fire pits and served to the public for free.
Taste of Towson, along with the annual Towsontown Spring Festival, are important fundraisers for the chamber because, "Every penny of it goes back to the streets of Towson to encourage people to hang (out) here for the holidays," Hafford said.
Taste of Towson has grown each year and this year has not only kept most of last year's participants, but added five new ones, bringing the number of participants to 30, compared to 25 in 2014, Hafford said.
Participants include Souris' Saloon, Strapazza, Seasons Pizza, Cunningham's, the Marriott Towson University hotel, the Sheraton Baltimore North hotel, Towson Tavern, Chick-Fil-A, Hooters and catering companies Rouge and Black and Gold.
Among the new restaurants participating is On the Border in Towson Square, home of the new Cinemark multiplex theater.
The event will take place at the SECU Arena on the campus of Towson University, from 5-7:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 at the door or $35 for the first 150 people to buy them, according to the chamber's website. All attendees will receive free swag bags and glasses that glow in the dark, Hafford said.
Taste of Towson is more than a fundraiser for the holidays, however.
"It's a time when everybody can get together and realize how much our community has to offer," Hafford said.
With so much new mixed-use development planned in Towson, "We have a lot of restaurants in our community — and there are more to come," she said.