Since 2008, the Asheville Independent Restaurants organization has brought together dozens of local chefs each November downtown for a grand celebration of the city’s culinary offerings. For diners who are just beginning to explore the area’s restaurant scene or longtime Asheville foodies who want to check out the new spots in town, Taste of Asheville offers a one-stop opportunity to mingle with chefs and sample their wares.
This year, the food- and drink-focused event takes a fresh turn — and a new name, Taste & Tunes — as it partners with the Asheville Buskers Collective to spotlight local musicians and entertainers. “Some of our members said we need to spice things up a bit,” says AIR executive director Jane Anderson. So, with a bit of inspiration from the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau’s new music portal on ExploreAsheville.com, she and AIR’s membership and partnership director, Aubrie Shramko, decided to approach the Asheville Buskers Collective.
“Here we’ve been known for food, Foodtopia and the culinary scene, and obviously we’ve got a great music scene that is now being touted to the world on Explore Asheville; it just seemed like the right thing to do,” says Anderson.
Asheville Buskers Collective representative Andrew Fletcher says three of Asheville’s most recognizable busking acts will perform: the Fly By Night Rounders featuring Abby the Spoon Lady, the Silver Drummer Girl and the All-Arounders. “Asheville’s street performers combined with our great independent restaurants all in one place seemed like a great fit,” he says.
This is the first collaboration the ABC has done with a local nonprofit organization. Since its inception two years ago, the group has been dedicated to advocating for buskers’ rights with the city of Asheville. But following some success in that arena, Fletcher says, members are now “looking for new ways to elevate and legitimize busking. One way is that we created a performer directory that talent buyers can browse to reach out to acts they’ve seen on the street. But with Taste of Asheville, we curated the performers to get just the right mix.”
A key component to the partnership with AIR is that the buskers will be compensated for their performances. “Oftentimes, groups that want to book buskers expect them to work solely for tips, but that doesn’t work at private events like it does on the sidewalk,” says Fletcher. “AIR offered very fair wages for our performers, and that’s the standard we’re looking to set. Working with another great local advocacy group like AIR is a logical extension of our work to preserve busking in Asheville.”
Anderson points out that, unlike many food festivals, AIR also provides stipends for participating restaurants to offset the cost of providing the food. At press time, 35 restaurants were confirmed for Taste & Tunes along with Biltmore Wines, Tryon Distributing and Empire Distributors. More will likely jump on board as the date draws closer, says Anderson.
Although there is a lot of competition these days when it comes to food events, Anderson notes that as the only festival put on by the restaurants themselves, Taste & Tunes offers something special. “I think this is the best bang for your buck if you’re looking for an evening to just walk around and enjoy a variety of great food and beverage,” says Anderson.