Tent shelters Feast from elements

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WALLA WALLA — Several hundred people feasted on treats under the giant tent downtown at Feast Walla Walla on Saturday.

There was beer-braised buffalo brisket offered by the South Fork Grill, wild boar and blue cheese brats by The Marc and Cugini’s handcrafted salami and Caccio Cavallo cheese, as well as dozens of wines and other dishes supplied by 50 vendors.

The biggest part of the event was the tent that housed close to 500 participants and volunteers and another 200 vendors and their employees.

Downtown Walla Walla Foundation Executive Director Elio Agostini estimated 700-800 people served, poured or tasted under the big tent that measured 240 feet long, 40 feet wide and about 20 feet high.

At one time, the foundation considered buying its own tent.

“By the time the third one occurred, I thought how could I do this different,” Agostini said.

A price tag of about $250,000 — not to mention the labor to set up, take down and store the structure — made the $10,000 rental fee a lot more feasible for Events and Public Relations Manager Jennifer Northam, who noted it takes a crew of six about six hours to hoist up the structure.

“Watching them do it, not only do I not want to store it, but I don’t want to be the one to remember how to put it up next year,” Northam said.

For the last six years, the structure has been rented from R & R Party Rentals of Bellevue, Wash. The tent can withstand winds of up to 70 mph, and it comes in even larger sizes.

Northam said if the event grows beyond the 850-person capacity, they might expand south on First and east on Alder with an L-shaped tent.

Usually, the foundation pays for the tent with proceeds from Feast Walla Walla. But this year, the tent was rented for an extra day for the cost of housing the six-person crew an extra night, so it could be used for the Chef’s Table fundraiser.

On Friday night, as the rain pelted down on it, the tent covered 100 participants who paid $95 each to attended the Chef’s Table. By the end of the night, $5,000 was raised in scholarship funds for the Walla Walla Community College Wine Country Culinary Institute.

“What’s neat is they finally had a reason to have a tent,” vendor Abigail Schwerin of Sapolil Celars said, referring to both the rain the night before and the windy day on Saturday.

From big to little, one of the smallest treats that debuted at this year’s Feast was good old-fashion sugar cookies.

“Not too sweet, not too greasy for the adults. Those aren’t just for children,” Cookie Construction Co. owner Michelle Bopp said is what makes a good sugar cookie.

Bopp runs her business through Andrae’s Kitchen; she is also married to Chef Andrae Bopp.

While Andrae’s Kitchen is known for a variety of specialties, that won’t be the case for Bopp’s three-week-old business. It will be sugar cookies only, though she will make a chocolate variety that she says goes well with wine.

What Bopp lacks in variety of tastes, she more than makes up for in variety of shapes and themes.

On Saturday, Bopp displayed three downtown sugar-cookie buildings modeled after the Liberty Theater, Cayuse tasting room and the Powerhouse Theater. She also does a number of other creations, but Lego figures seem to be the most popular for her birthday party customers.

Sugar cookie specialists aren’t completely knew. A quick search online found a number of bakers who create all kinds of cookies and ship them. But they also bake other goods, where Bopp said it will be sugar cookies only.

“There are some cookie artists, but they are more professional bakers. So I am forging the way here,” Bopp said.

As for crisp versus soft, Bopp said she can make both.

Crispy was what was served to the participants at this year’s feast, and she did it for free.

“No tokens. Just the taste,” Bopp said as she handed out samples.

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