Nothing stuffy about Taste of Suffolk as the event draws thousands into the town center to sample local food
Posted at 8:51 p.m. on Monday, September 12, 2022
Crowds of people filled North Main and West Washington streets on Saturday to fill their stomachs at the 16th Taste of Suffolk, sampling food from around 20 restaurants.
Music from multiple stages provided the backdrop as performers also converged downtown for the final day of the six-day Plein Art festival, culminating in a rapid-draw art competition as people put on Suffolk scenes on canvas.
Those who loved craft beer had a space to themselves to relax on couches, watch college football in the downtown courtyard, listen to live music and watch artist Chip Wilkinson, with the help of Tammy Hinkle, repainting the Main Street mural he painted 20 years earlier.
Some, like Felipe Conejo, decided to test their mettle in the hot pepper-eating contest, eating his fastest among the five contestants before drinking milk.
“After I finished the habanero, he hit my tongue and I was like on fire,” Conejo said.
The milk placed next to his plate did not tempt him because “I did not want to lose”, he laughs.
Local restaurants did good business on both streets as queues were frequent throughout the afternoon.
And the artists were all over the stage too.
In conjunction with the Taste of Suffolk, the Suffolk Plein Air Festival held a Quick Draw event, with 46 artists – young and old – having two hours to paint a scene within the confines of the Taste of Suffolk, with participants’ works available at buy after.
Kirk Larsen of Hicksville, New York, took third place in the adult Quick Draw event with his painting, “Main Street Boogie”, depicting the festival scene, which included Rowan Ellis of Virginia Beach, who walked the festival on stilts. Larsen also received an honorable mention at Friday’s Plein Air festival awards ceremony for his painting, “Whatever Floats Your Boat.”
Norfolk-based artist Doug Clarke placed second in the adult Quick Draw event with “The Neighborhood”, painting one of the downtown’s iconic homes. Although he was unable to participate in the rest of the Plein Air Festival, he was able to participate in his culminating event Quick Draw.
“I had fun this time,” Clarke said. “It doesn’t always work in two hours. Sometimes you get an hour and have to start over. You can’t always hit home runs.
Dimitris Voyiazoglou, originally from Athens, Greece but now living in The Hague, Netherlands, said he wanted to return to the United States to paint a small American town and chose to come to Suffolk this year for the festival. He went to graduate school at Michigan State University in the 1980s to study chemistry. He created several paintings and sold six in Suffolk. He was in town throughout the week for the duration of the festival.
“I wanted to go back to the United States,” Voyiazoglou said. “I paint a lot in Holland, and I said to myself ‘why not do an Outdoor Festival?'”
The 2022 Plein Air festival, which brought together more than 40 artists from Suffolk, Hampton Roads and other parts of the United States, and included Voyaizoglou from the Netherlands, took place across the city as artists painted at the outside. The painting, “Hard at Work” by Lyudmila Tamova, was named best in the exhibition.
Voyiazoglou plans to return next year and, judging by the number of people soaking up the craft beer, pulsing with the music and diving into the local food, many more will be returning as well.
“It was a blast,” Conejo said. “Good food, good beer, so all good.”