The community outreach to welcome winter visitors, the “Taste of the Valley & Business Expo,” was deemed more than successful Monday, Jan. 29 by sponsors and Hemet San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce officials.
The special event was held at the Golden Village Palms RV Resort in Hemet and brought more than 2,000 visitors. Many of them came from colder northern states or Canada, fondly called “Snowbirds” by residents, to enjoy food and beverage samples from Hemet San Jacinto Valley restaurants. More than 80 local businesses, restaurants, nonprofits, media groups, medical facilities and recreational outlets and city officials greeted the visitors for the 3-hour special event.
While visitors strolled around enjoying the tastes, picking up informational brochures, learning about the local schools, checking out invitations to recreational facilities and accepting little gifts, Michael Britton, singer and guitarist, sang and played on the stage of the RV resorts recreation hall.
Rod and Carol Ney from Great Falls, Montana, were delighted with the Taste of Valley and Business Expo. The couple is staying in their RV at the Golden Village Palms for the winter.
“We’ve been coming here 16 years,” Rod Ney said. “It gives an outstanding flavor of the whole city. You know where to go, and it’s good for knowing the medical facilities. We visit many places.”
Adding to the many winter visitors’ delight were the daytime temperatures nearing 80 degrees in the Valley.
“The weekends here are beautiful,” Carol Ney said.
Michael Carle, board member immediate past chairman of the Hemet San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce and manager of the RV resort, acted as host for the event.
“This is always a big hit,” Carle said. “It’s a good way to introduce our snowbirds to the city… They look forward to it each year. It is well received by our seniors and for the snowbirds. It is a business boon for the Valley and a big boost for their businesses, especially for the restaurants.”
Kathy Small, administrative assistant at the newly remodeled Country Club of Soboba Springs, said, “What a wonderful turnout,” as she served a crisp fresh salad plate to a winter visitor at her table in the expo. She went on to tell the visitor about the club’s 18-hole golf course that was moved and improved to make way for the huge new Soboba Casino and Resort being constructed in San Jacinto.
Equally pleased with the turnout was Olivia Garcia, manager of the Los Vaqueros Mexican Grill off Florida Avenue in west Hemet.
“This is a really good turnout,” Garcia said. “There are a lot of out-of-towners here. They come and visit us.”
The restaurant’s taste offering of 500 delicious Chimichangas were handed out to the guests in less than two hours.
“They are really happy here,” she said of the snowbirds.
San Jacinto City Councilman Andrew Kotyuk visited the expo with his daughter Emily, Miss Teen San Jacinto.
“The economy is rebounding in the Valley,” Kotyuk said. “It is a very positive sign. More snowbirds are coming here and bringing more discretionary spending.”
Employees of Hemet’s newest restaurants, Taco La Bufadora Baja Grill, continued dishing out their popular bean and meat taco fillings over tortilla chips to happy visitors even after the event concluded at 6:30 p.m.