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9th annual Taste of LIC set for next week at Gantry

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer was scheduled to emcee the 9th annual Taste of LIC Tuesday evening. Photo courtesy of Sara Wasilausky Luckey
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Long Island City is gearing up for its social event of the season as the ninth annual Taste of LIC prepares to take over the Plaza at Gantry State Park Tuesday.

A record 53 restaurants will take part with the addition of 11 first-time participants, including Crescent Grill, Bear Bar, Woodbines and Mars.

“It’s come a long way since that first year when 12 places took part,” Sheila Lewandowski said of the event that started as a fund-raiser for her Obie Award-winning Chocolate Factory Theater on 49th Avenue.

The theater supports the creation of new work in a variety of disciplines, including theater, dance, music, multimedia and the visual arts. The Factory’s 5,000-square-foot facility provides support to visiting artists, dedicated access to space and technical equipment, marketing, press and administrative assistance.

The theater’s Visiting Arts Program has become a leading incubator for new developments in experimental performance.

“As a nonprofit without deep pockets, it was a win-win,” Lewandowski said. “We wanted to raise money, but even more we wanted to raise the awareness of our community of restaurants and artists. It was also a chance for everyone to socialize because they all work very hard at what they do.”

The first two Taste of LICs were held in Lewandowski’s theater until Rockrose donated the use of the rooftop at 47-20 Center Blvd.

“That was great fun, but it was too difficult to get 1,000 people up and down in an elevator,” Lewandowski said.

By the fourth year the event had settled at Gantry, where it has been every year since. The 53 restaurants line up in a 10,000-square-foot festival tent in the plaza of the waterfront park and serve up bite-size portions to the 1,000 attendees who pay between $60 to $400 for three hours of sampling.

Staging this kind of event is not cheap.

“Without labor you’re talking $50,000, festival tents aren’t cheap to rent,” she said.

The Taste of LIC is the largest event of its kind in western Queens and even spawned the same types of events in neighboring Sunnyside and Woodside.

Lewandowski advised Sunnyside Shines Executive Director Rachel Thieme on last week’s Taste of Sunnyside that won raves for its location in a tent under the No. 7 subway line.

“I was only too happy to help. Rachel knew that we’ve used tents for years,” Lewandowski said. “What good is knowledge if you don’t share it?”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Posted 12:00 am, May 30, 2014
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