GROTON -- It was almost closing time and people were still coming in through the front door.

And those already inside were reluctant to leave; lingering around small tables in groups, moving among the exhibits, sampling still more of the wide array of prepared foods all there for the discriminating palate.

The event in question was the 13th annual Taste of Nashoba Valley sponsored by the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce to introduce residents to local food service businesses from restaurants and cafes to hotels and schools.

"It was great," said Boston resident Jessica Martin, adding that she would patronize some of the local eateries in the future. "The food was delicious and the people were friendly."

"I liked it because I prefer to try a little bit of everything anyway," said Manchester, N.H resident Susan Brady. "This way, I can be picky about what I wanted to eat. Also, the portions served were good and very generous!"

When first time participant, Eric Brambila, owner of the Ixtapa Mexican Grill in Groton was asked, he expressed surprise at the 1,000 plus visitors the March 18 event attracted.

"We ran out of food right away," exclaimed Brambila only an hour into the two and half hour event.

Food service colleague Josiah Coleman, owner of Coleman's Catering of Pepperell, was a veteran of the Taste of Nashoba and when told to expect between 800 and 1,000 people, he planned for 1,200.


"If getting the word out about area businesses is what the Chamber is about, this event does that, very much so," said Coleman over the crowd noise. "This is an excellent venue for getting the word out and getting feedback from people. It's a great highlight of what the Chamber stands for."

Attendance at the event was so heavy, that buses had to shuttle visitors between the athletic center and various locations around the Lawrence Academy campus where cars filled every nook and cranny.

According to Chamber of Commerce President Melissa Fetterhof, the Taste of Nashoba began at the Groton School before moving to Lawrence Academy's Stone Athletic Center some 10 years ago.

"It's grown over the years," explained Fetterhof. "Both in the number of vendors taking part and in people who come to visit. That's because it's a fun event with delicious food and fantastic beverages. People love to come in groups and with friends to enjoy an evening out."

Among the stellar line up of local eateries represented at the event were Annie's Gluten-Free Bakery Aunty Ellen's Creative Confections, Bliss Bakery, Bull Run Restaurant, Burtons Grill, Devens Grill, Dolce Catering, DoubleTree by Hilton, Gibbet Hill Grill, Gracenote Coffee Roasters, Groton Wellness, Hills Home Market, Jack O'Lantern Wine & Spirits, Nashoba Valley Technical High School, Red Tail Golf Club, Rivercourt Residences, Shaker Hills Country Club, Sweet Lydia's, VESTA Mobile Wood-Fired Pizza, Wachusett Brewery, and more.

And by all accounts, the latest edition of Taste of Nashoba was as successful as the culinary delights whipped up by its featured businesses.

"I'm so full," declared Nicole Hardaker-Smith of Townsend, adding soto voce, "It was so much better than the Boston Wine and Food tasting!"

"It was like Thanksgiving!" chimed in Pepperell friend Linda Evans.

"I thought it was wonderful!" insisted a satisfied Deb Pedrazzi of Ayer. "There was a much better selection of foods this year. A much better variety."

With people packing the wooden floor of the Stone Athletic Center, it was likely that the event broke Fetterhof's estimate of 1,000 people attending the event. Visitors at many tables were two or three persons deep while others eating at strategically placed table settings, eyed their next sampling where the crowds thinned out.

Aware of how popular the annual event had become, some visitors planned their strategy ahead of time to avoid the rush.

"Our secret is to get here early then start in the back and work our way to the front of the room," revealed Groton resident Lisa O'Neill. "You have to move against the flow of the crowd."

"Anyone who attends an event like this gets a broad perspective of all the food service businesses there are in the area," commented Board of Selectmen member Anna Eliot looking over the busy athletic center. "They're all good. I'm just impressed at the effort the Chamber goes through to to make this kind of presentation."

Ian Hurley, a new resident of Groton, found the event a welcoming one by the community.

"It was excellent," he said. "And the food was great!"

Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to various institutions including the Lawrence Library, the Ayer and Groton Fire Departments, the Westford Historical Society, and the Ayer Business Alliance among others.