Thousands descended on downtown Fenton on Saturday for food and festivities during the chamber of commerce's .
Rain and a quick thunderstorm in the morning cleared by afternoon, allowing the event to take place outdoors. Families and friends sampled a variety of food, including 's cornbread, cashew chicken from the new Bankok Peppers Too and root beer floats sponsored by Financial Plus Credit Union.
Karl Keranen, of Fenton, has only missed one Taste of Fenton. He said he looks forward to it each year and brings his family. His son, Bode, 5, was in the children's pie eating contest, sponsored by Crust and , this year.
"He didn't even take a bite of it," Keranen said. "We took it home. We got no face-plant in the pie.
"We brought it home and came back with my daughter (Milo, 12) to get some more food."
The adults' pie eating contest took place later in the day.
Fenton resident Erika Wood also attended the event. "It's pretty good," she said. "I like it. It's cool to be able to try everything."
Twenty area businesses supplied some of their best dishes for guests to sample. Amy Scott, from the Historic Holly Hotel, said the morning rain scared them a little. But later, "the weather is cooperating and the crowds are smiling," Scott said. "It looks like a good turnout."
Stella Schlaff, also from the Historic Holly Hotel, agreed. "It's a lot of fun," she said.
In addition, Fenton Regional Chamber of Commerce President Shelly Day said the event was going well. "We're so happy the rain stopped," she said.
Taste in Fenton is one of the chamber's main fundraisers, and proceeds help provide more programs and events for the community. Online, pre-ticket sales surpassed last year's totals, Day said. In 2010, the chamber sold more than 800 tickets online before the day of the event. This year, that number increased to around 1,200. Pre-tickets also were sold at area businesses, and people purchased them on the day of the event.
Residents from around the area attended Taste in Fenton. Ava Ng, 4, of Flushing, enjoyed a cool, frosty root beer float with her family.
Chloe Johnson, 9, a student at Kreeger Elementary School in Fowlerville, said, "It's really fun, and I can explore." Her grandmother, Sharon Staton, of Howell, said, "There's lots of good food."
David and Rose Michael, of Burton, sampled pork sliders from Beale St. Smokehouse BBQ. The Michaels deemed the sliders a success. Rose grew up in the Fenton area, they said.
Angie Miller, Mary Lemon and Amanda Boilore helped operate one of 's two booths. VG's offered samples from both its bakery and deli departments.
Under a shady tree, Ben Kehoe, 10, a fifth-grader at in Fenton, tried his hand at one of the games in the Kids' Zone. He tried to flip plastic fish through a hole.
"I think it's a lot of fun," Ben said.
The Kids' Zone, expanded this year due to its popularity, was his favorite part of Taste in Fenton.
And members of the G.R.A.Y.T. Leviathons robotics team displayed their skills at Taste in Fenton. Alex Abfalter and Rose Joynt, juniors at , helped answer people's questions and operate the robot. It was an amazing event and a good way to showcase the students' work, Joynt said. They built the robot in six weeks and are trying to get people more interested in science and technology.
Other activities were part of the day. A Wounded Warrior Project booth collected donations and offered items for sale. "It's going great," said Lorri Adams, who was helping run the booth. "We are getting a lot of support from the community."
As part of the Fenton Kiwanis' Art at the Center — which also took place at the — James Conner, of Grand Blanc, represented his James Conner Gallery. He painted a winter scene as spectators observed his careful brush strokes.
"It's nice," Conner said. "We had a little bit of rain this morning, but it's a nice day. I'm happy to be here, there are good people here."
Conner attended Art at the Center three or four years ago and decided to return for the 2011 event. His gallery features images printed on ceramic pieces.
In the morning, the ' Charities held it 5K and 10K run and walk fundraising event. Fire Chief Robert Cairnduff said the races (which began and ended at the fire station) went well. With around 140 to 150 participants, "we had a bigger turnout from last year," he said.
Proceeds support local people in need, who have suffered a fire or accident, or who have a sick child. In addition, Fenton Firefighters' Charities also helps Genesee County firefighters who are sick or injured.