RiverFEAST goes hungry


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Downtown restaurant workers were disappointed by the lack of lines and uneaten food April 25 at the RiverFEAST food event.

The event, sponsored by RiverFest and the Downtown Association, offered sample-sized servings of appetizers, entrées, and desserts from 20 restaurants and several volunteer booths.

With warm servings of macaroni and cheese, chicken tacos, and grilled cheeseburgers available on the chilly overcast day, many attendees said the ice cream and gelato stands left them with lingering icy cravings.

For those who showed up, they said the food was worth it.

But with rain falling all afternoon, the turnout at the tables was smaller than many had hoped for.

UI students were especially a rare sight downtown on the afternoon of April 25. Young children and adults braved the weather with raincoats and umbrellas, while most students were there to work as volunteers, not to participate.

“If I wasn’t volunteering, I absolutely would not be out here today,” said UI freshman Fawwaz Ahmed as he waited in line for ice cream at the Cold Stone Creamery stand.

As co-owner Josh Silver of Pizza on Dubuque, 5 S. Dubuque St., offered pizza slices in the rain, the sidewalk around him empty.

“If the weather wasn’t like this, I’m positive the turnout would have been totally different,” he said.

In September 2008, the Johnson County Local Food Alliance held a culinary walk, operating the same as last week’s RiverFEAST. Past participants said the turnout was much greater than this spring, with most booths serving crowds of hungry pedestrians and food quickly disappearing from tabletops.

This time around, after two hours of operation, such restaurants as Milio’s, 20 S. Clinton St., served fewer than 20 ticket holders.

“At previous events, people were lined up down the street for this stuff,” said Allison French, serving pizza and wings from the Airliner, 22 S. Clinton St.. “The rain is definitely hampering our business today,” said Brian Kelley, general manager at Milio’s.

Local parents and their bundled-up kids still took advantage of the weekend food crawl.

With eyes set on a balloon of pink cotton candy, 10-year-old Phillip Gillette said the constant drizzle never dampened his appetite for some sweet samples. “I think it’s pretty cool to get cotton candy and ice cream and that gelato stuff,” he said standing on slick Pedestrian Mall bricks, his food favorites all within walking distance and none of them more than $3. “That makes stuff still fun.”

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