Salem diners will be on the move during Sept. 26 fundraiser

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— WHAT: Salem Downtown Dining Experience.

— WHEN: 5 to 9 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 26.

— WHERE: Various downtown restaurants.

— TICKETS: $35 each, beginning Aug. 31, Salem Area Chamber of Commerce.

— BENEFITS: United Way Services of Northern Columbiana County.

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SALEM — Area residents wanting a taste of Salem can eat their way through the downtown during a new Salem Area Chamber of Commerce event to raise funds for United Way Services of Northern Columbiana County.

Known as the Downtown Dining Experience, the fundraiser scheduled from 5 to 9 p.m. Sept. 26 replaces the Taste of Salem, which chamber officials decided to shelve after 20 successful years.

“Instead of the restaurants coming to us, we’re going to the restaurants,” event co-chair Janet Keene said. 

Similar to a chocolate crawl or pub crawl, diners will travel from restaurant to restaurant of the list of participating eateries and sample food at each one. Each stop will feature two raffle baskets, with 50/50 tickets available at all the stops.

“This is a fundraiser to feature our restaurants in downtown,” Chamber Executive Director Audrey Null said.

The list of participating restaurants to date includes Ricky’s English Pub, BB Rooners, Ezio’s, LiB’s Market, Boneshakers, Coaches/Serendipity and Rancho Viejo. Also Troll’s Jewelry will participate with Giant Eagle appetizers and the annual Champagne Diamond Drop.

Tickets are presale only for $35 each and go on sale beginning Aug. 31. The cutoff date for purchasing tickets will be Sept. 25 or until sold out, with only 300 available. Tickets can be purchased at the chamber office at the corner of State and Lincoln or from any of the 20 United Way of Northern Columbiana County agencies. Organizers said they’re expecting a sellout.

Keene explained that each restaurant stop will be color-coded and tickets will correspond to those colors, so if someone has a red ticket, their starting point will be the red restaurant. Every 35 people will have a different starting point. Ticket holders will be asked to stay at each location 30 minutes, then a bell will ring to signify it’s time to hit the next location on the map.

The Quakertown Trolley is scheduled to be running during the Downtown Dining Experience with three stops: the municipal parking lot across from Boneshakers, the municipal parking lot across from Ricky’s English Pub and Rancho Viejo on Ellsworth Avenue. The trolley won’t be able to stop at any other locations.

United Way executive director George W.S. Hays said cocktail specials have been suggested for the night. Keene and Null also said restaurants are being encouraged to offer buy one get one free coupon deals or half-off specials to encourage diners to come back to their restaurants.

Tickets for raffle baskets can be purchased at any participating location during the event, but must be deposited at the location for each corresponding basket. Drawings for both the baskets and the 50/50 will take place at 10 a.m. Sept. 27 on Facebook Live from the chamber building. Tickets are $1 each or six for $5. The baskets are being donated by United Way agencies, with the value of each basket at $50 or more.

Hosts and helpers at each location will help guide visitors. At Troll’s, visitors can pay $10 for a glass of champagne and a chance for a piece of diamond jewelry donated by the jewelry store, carrying on the diamond drop tradition from all of the past Taste of Salem events.

The Taste of Salem started in 1996 and grew into a popular night out, but was logistically difficult for some restaurants because it was held in one spot and they had to bring all their stuff with them. Plus, it was attracting so many people that there was no place large enough to hold it comfortably.

“We’re trying to reach out to new donors and new money,” Hays said, adding “…this gives us a whole new opportunity to support our local restaurants and local community and United Way.”

Null said that Salem has some awesome restaurants and it’s the chamber’s job to promote them. Not all restaurants in the downtown chose to participate but all were asked.

“We feel promoting our restaurants in this event is a good way to get the word out to others to dine out in downtown Salem,” she said.

They’ve also received some good feedback regarding the new event and the restaurants are excited.

“This is a fundraiser by the chamber to help support United Way. United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. The chamber is helping us fulfill that,” Hays said.

United Way will hold it’s annual kickoff party for the new campaign on Aug. 30 at the Salem Community Center with Steven Hollon, president/CEO of Ohio United Way serving as the special guest.

United Way agencies listed in the 2018 brochure include: A.I.D. Inc. (Action, Information, Direction); American Red Cross; Boy Scouts of America-Buckeye Council; Camp Fire Tayanoka; Catholic Charities Regional Agency in Lisbon; Christians’ Concern of Leetonia; Columbiana Meals on Wheels; Family and Community Services of Columbiana County; Family Recovery Center; Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio; Habitat for Humanity of Mahoning Valley; Home Care Advantage; Making Kids Count; Quota Club International of Salem-Salem Area Speech and Hearing Clinic; Retired Senior Volunteer Program (R.S.V.P.); Salem Area Visiting Nurse Association; Salem Worlds War Memorial Building; Salvation Army Salem Corps; Salvation Army Northern Columbiana County Service Units; and Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley.

Other co-chairs for the Downtown Dining Experience include Jim Wenderoth and Susan Frenger.

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