SPRINGDALE — The Taste of the Ozarks took place at 6 p.m. Thursday in the home of Randy and Christine Meier as the first evening of the 12th annual Big Event to benefit the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization of northwest Arkansas.
The event included a live auction, silent auction, live music and a catered dinner by Kruton’s Festivities and Catering Tents and Events. The fundraiser concludes with a Golf Tournament on Friday.
It all adds up to one BIG Event, with all proceeds going to help Big Brothers Big Sisters match area children with caring mentors in professionally supported one-to-one relationships.
“In the past, we’ve had about 225 people attend these events and we expect a similar number tonight,” said Brittney Gulley, development director for Big Brothers Big Sisters. “Hopefully this year it will be more spread out and inviting for our guests.”
“We have 30 kids waiting to be paired with a big brother or big sister,” said Karen Armstrong president of the Big Brothers Big Sisters board of directors, who has been serving the organization for four years. “We are always needing volunteers. … This is our big fundraiser for the year and we appreciate the Meiers’ generosity for inviting us into their homes.”
“That’s what makes this event unique and sets us apart from others,” said Jana Buckley-Mix, Fund Development Committee Chair. “Each year we have this event at someone’s home,” said Jana Mix. “That’s what makes it unique.”
Randy and Christine Meier are owners of the Rogers creative boutique Signed Sealed and Delivered.
“We raise 100 percent of our operating costs,” said Jane Heth, operations director of the organization. “We’re associated with Big Brothers and Big Sisters, but they don’t fund us. We raise it all.”
To continue typical operations, the organization hopes to raise $80,000 or more by the end of the fundraiser Friday. A great deal of Big Brothers Big Sisters staff and board members were present for the evening and their enthusiasm for working to benefit the children was very clear.
“I work to make sure that the children find the right volunteer to be their big brother or big sister,” said Julie Joyner, one of the Big Brother Big Sister case managers. “I love it.” Joyner has worked with the organization for 14 years and has found the experience rewarding.
Kelly Medearis, enrollment specialist for the organization, echoed those sentiments.
“You know how sushi kind of leaves you feeling light and not bogged down like other food?” she asked. “Working here has been like sushi for my soul.”
Live acoustic guitar and voice performance was provided by Wes Heart, who covered a mix of hit songs from the ‘70s ‘80s ‘90s and more. After dusk fell and guests made their way from the patio to the pool house, he said he felt like ramping up the volume and energy, much to the enjoyment of some guests.
“I play enough events,” Heart said. “So I decided to take this one for free.”
The Taste of the Ozarks live auction enticed guests with pairs of tickets to big name events and concerts, such as the American Idol set and backstage pass; Academy of Country Music Awards; Ellen DeGeneres and the World Series.
The silent auction held allure for those who like to host. Signature Bank and Kruton’s Festivities and Botanical Gardens each offered catering for groups of 24-30. Other items were a date night In-Home Chef Experience, a weekend getaway for a pair of Nascar fans, and an Instant Wine Cellar.