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CROW to kick off monthlong Taste of the Islands

By TIFFANY REPECKI / trepecki@breezenewspapers.com - | Oct 27, 2020

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife will host its 39th annual Taste of the Islands starting in November — reimagined as a monthlong fundraiser this year in light of the ongoing health crisis.

“Taste of the Islands is our longest fundraiser, but it is also a friend-raiser,” Executive Director Alison Charney Hussey said, explaining that CROW has enjoyed a partnership with the islands’ restaurants for decades. “We knew we had to figure out how to still have one this year, even in the midst of COVID.”

“It’s so important for CROW because it raises funds so we can conduct our mission,” she added.

Each year, CROW cares for approximately 3,500 patients, including over 200 species of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife in its veterinary hospital — one of the nation’s leading rehabilitation facilities for native and migratory wildlife. Proceeds from fundraisers like the Taste enable it to continue its work.

“I think we realized early on it wasn’t going to be able to happen as it normally does,” Hussey said of the event that draws a large crowd to a park. “And we weren’t sure where we’d be with the virus.”

TIFFANY REPECKI Executive Director Alison Charney Hussey

“So, we wanted to think of something that we could still do that would also help our restaurant partners,” she added. “What better way than to take Taste of the Islands to the restaurants?”

For 2020, people can purchase passports for $10 each that contain a listing and map of the 31 participating restaurants, along with the selection of “Taste” items being offered by each eatery. A portion of the proceeds from those designated food and beverages sold are donated to CROW.

“It’s kind of your guidebook of where to go,” Hussey said. “Just like our normal Taste event, the restaurants have identified items that they are going to share the proceeds with with CROW.”

There are “Taste” appetizers and entrees available, even drinks this year.

She noted that the items can be enjoyed dining in or ordered as take-out.

“The restaurants that are participating are participating for the whole month of November,” Hussey said. “So whether you go on a Tuesday night or a Thursday morning, it’s really all up to you.”

With each visit, the restaurants will stamp or punch a person’s passport. Only passport holders will be eligible to vote for their favorite eatery from the list to win the coveted “People’s Choice Award.”

“Of course, we want you to try as many of the restaurants as possible, so you know which one is your favorite,” she said, noting that they can further support the restaurants by ordering non-Taste items.

As in years past, additional awards will be handed out for: “Best Appetizer,” “Best Seafood,” “Best Meat,” “Best Vegetarian,” “Best Dessert” and “Taste of the Taste,” plus a new “Best Drink” one.

“Our judges will be sampling all of the Taste items from the restaurants,” Hussey said.

Passport holders also have an opportunity to be entered into a drawing to win a variety of prizes.

“We’re got some fantastic prizes,” she said, citing weekend vacation stays on the islands, jewelry, gift certificates and more. “All kinds of great fun prizes — all well worth your $10 passport purchase.”

Ballot boxes will be set up around the islands for people to drop them off.

Passports must be turned in by Dec. 4 at 4 p.m.

Another new element this year as part of the reimagined fundraiser will be a “CROW Crawl” each Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Each one will focus on restaurants in a different area of the islands.

“We certainly didn’t want people to miss out on seeing our Animal Ambassadors and miss out on having the opportunity to get their CROW Taste of the Islands T-shirt,” Hussey said.

“We divided up the restaurants kind of geographically,” she continued of the five weekends in November. “Those restaurants will have the CROW tent, sponsors tent. They’ll have giveaways.”

“It’ll be a fun opportunity to get out and enjoy the weather and the day,” Hussey added.

The “CROW Crawls” are scheduled as follows:

– Nov. 1: Crow’s Nest, Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille — Captiva, The Green Flash, Lazy Flamingo, The Mucky Duck, Old Captiva House, and Sunset Grill

– Nov. 8: Great White Grill, Love Boat Ice Cream, The Pecking Order Fried Chicken and Pies, Sanibel Deli, T2, and The Timbers Restaurant & Fish Market

– Nov. 15: Blue Giraffe, Island Pizza Company, MudBugs Cajun Kitchen, Sanibel Fish House, Sweet Melissa’s Café, and Traders

– Nov. 22: The Clam Shack, Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille — Sanibel, Joey’s Custard, Normandie Seaside Cafe, Spoondrift Island Bowls, and Thistle Lodge Beachfront Restaurant

– Nov. 29: Cielo, Lazy Flamingo II, Matzaluna’s Italian Kitchen, Sanibel Fresh, Seabreeze Café, and Tipsy Turtle Restaurant & Bar

“And we’ll be live streaming from a different restaurant every day,” she said.

Passports are available for purchase at CROW’s Visitor Education Center, Bank of the Islands and Edison National Bank branches, Bailey’s General Store locations, and Huxter’s Market & Deli. They can also be purchased at any of the participating eateries, or at www.CROWClinic.org for pick up.

“We’re just really excited about having as many restaurants participating as are,” Hussey said, noting that it is usually about 15. “We’re thrilled to have the support of the restaurants and our sponsors.”

Residents and visitors are encouraged to grab a passport.

“I think this year, especially, not-for-profits have really been struggling,” she said. “And having to cancel as many fundraisers as we have — Taste of the Islands, we didn’t want to cancel it.”

“We did our best to reimage it not only for it to support CROW but for it to support the restaurants and for people to be able to enjoy themselves,” Hussey added. “This is a fundraiser that everyone can feel good about. I think that’s something that we all need now. Something to embrace and feel good about.”

For more information, visit www.crowclinic.org or on Facebook or call 239-472-3644.