By Curt Yeomans
A handful of restaurant and catering business owners, and one City of Jonesboro employee, visited Stately Oaks Plantation on Wednesday to discuss plans for this year's "Taste of Clayton" event and to tour the grounds to find locations to set up their booths.
The Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County, Inc., event, which is in its 18th year, will take place June 12, from 6 p.m., to 9 p.m., at the plantation located at 100 Carriage Lane, in Jonesboro. Twenty restaurants from across Clayton and Henry counties are scheduled to have samples of their food available, said Jan Turner, the food chairperson for "Taste of Clayton."
Turner said she expects as many as 700 people will attend this year. That is the average number of people who have attended in the past, she said. "It's the place to be on June 12," Turner said. "It's a Friday evening, after a busy week, so people can come and unwind, and visit with old friends."
To date, the Jonesboro Chick-fil-A Dwarf House, Frontera Mex-Mex Grill, Louisiana Catfish Kitchen, Blue Bell Ice Cream, Oakwood Café, Cracker Barrel, O'Charley's, Honey Baked Hams, Butch's Chicken House, Costco, the City of Jonesboro, Simply Southern Tourism, Anderson's Diner, Sam's Wholesale Club, Gezzo's Surf & Grill, Incredible Southern Poundcakes, Da Dancing Pig Hickory Barbecue, and Let's Do Lunch catering will be participating in the event.
Turner said Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell, and Chuck Ware, a local chili aficionado, will also serve their own specialized dishes. She also said restaurants can still sign up to participate, by contacting Stately Oaks at (770) 473-0197.
A local jazz band will perform on the front porch of the plantation's main house, and a silent auction will take place in the old school house, said Historical Jonesboro President Barbara Emert. "It's the single, largest, special-event fund-raiser we do each year," she said.
Turner said there are six businesses participating this year for the first time. One of those is Stockbridge-based Let's Do Lunch Catering, whose co-owner, Helen Adkins, is a member of Historical Jonesboro's governing board. Adkins and her friend, Tiffani Reynolds, started the catering business earlier this year.
"This is our debut ... It's our free publicity," said Adkins, who will be on the vendor side of the event after years of attending as a patron. "It's usually just a lovely evening, and I hope I get to talk to more people, and - hopefully - they'll like our food."
Adkins also convinced Kathy Shepherd, owner of another Stockbridge-based food business, Incredible Southern Poundcakes, to participate. Shepherd said, since she has seen her business increase after participating in similar events, she decided to take the plunge in Clayton. "It's a great way to get your name out there, and to hear about great food," she said.
Shepherd said she makes 18 different flavors of poundcakes, including vanilla, butter, rum, lemon, orange and chocolate chip, but which flavor she makes for "Taste of Clayton" will "be a mystery."
Terry Owens, the owner of Riverdale-based Louisiana Catfish Kitchen, said he decided to participate for a second consecutive year because he was able to promote his business last year, when it was only a month old. "We swore we'd do it again after that," he said. Owens said his restaurant will serve a variety of items, including catfish nuggets, "Dirty Rice" and Cajun coleslaw.
One of the other features at this year's "Taste of Clayton" will be a birthday cake provided by the City of Jonesboro. "We thought since it's the 150-year anniversary [of Jonesboro's founding], that would work right with the ["Taste of Clayton"] celebration," said Sharon Deaton, an administrative assistant from Jonesboro City Hall, who represented the city during the tour of Stately Oaks Wednesday.
Admission to "Taste of Clayton" is $15 per adult, $12 for seniors over the age of 60, and $5 for children between the ages of 4 and 12. Children under 3 will be admitted free. Turner said tickets can be purchased at Stately Oaks, the Road to Tara Museum at the Jonesboro Train Depot, 104 North Main Street in Jonesboro, and at Swint's Feed and Supply, 252 North Main Street in Jonesboro.