United Way kickoff features fancy food.

Voting for their favorite foods was a tough choice for some of the more than 200 people trying “A Taste of Missouri” Thursday evening at the Quality Inn & Suites in Hannibal, Mo.
This was the seventh annual Taste of Missouri hosted by the United Way of the Mark Twain Area to kickoff its annual fund-raising campaign. The 2012-2013 campaign goal is $565,000.
While some people said their favorites were “all of them”, others had no problem naming their favorite, although so many foods were offered that more than one plate could be filled before tasting them all.
Mary Frances Quinlin chose the beef stew served by the Monroe City Senior Center. Mary Appel agreed, adding she also favored the chicken club wrap served by Gayla Curry, owner of T.J.’s Supper Club. This was also the favorite of Dorothy Whitley.
The Monroe City booth took home two awards when the votes had been counted later in the evening. It was voted “best of show” and also “best main dish.” The center served two main dishes, beef stew and goulash.
It also won “best main dish” in 2011, according to Lou Lemen, United Way executive director.
Earlier, when asked to name a favorite taste treat, Yvonne Cassidy said she especially liked the pimiento cheese and crackers served by Debra Sparks, administrator of the Shelby County Senior Center in Shelbina. And Ken Femrite was even more vocal about this, calling it “the best pimiento cheese I ever ate!”
Evidently they were among many who agreed - it was voted “best appetizer,” and earned the Shelby County Senior Center a trophy.
Some favorites were desserts, like the waffles served with ice cream by the Paris Senior Center. Rita Wilkerson said this was the top treat she had tried, then added she was from Paris, too, but was not just being loyal.
Lemen awarded the “best snack” prize to the Paddlewheel Popcorn & Candy booth, and reported this was its second year in a row to take home this trophy.
The “best dessert” trophy went to Chocolaterie Stam for its Italian gelato.
A “best booth” based on decorations also was elected, Lemen reported. This went to the robotics Girl Scout Troop 9012. Although their booth won an award, the Girl Scouts were not staying there - they were taking a tray of Girl Scout cookies from table to table, carried by Abby Thomeczek.
Many booths were providing information about their agencies, such as the Boy Scouts, where Eric Deeter, district executive of the Great Rivers Council, was busy explaining all the organization offers for boys.
Additional United Way agencies participating at the “Taste of Missouri” kickoff included the American Red Cross Northeast Missouri Chapter, AVENUES, CWJC-Christian Women’s Job Corps, Douglass Community Services, Heartland Resources and Learning Opportunities/Quality Works Inc.
The United Way of the Mark Twain Area helps fund human service program in Marion, Ralls, Monroe, Shelby and Lewis counties.
During the evening 2012-2013 Campaign Chairman Ryan Rapp announced the Day of Caring will be Sept. 27, beginning with breakfast at Hannibal-LaGrange University, followed by volunteer projects in UW funded programs.
Later, the YMCA of Hannibal will have a family carnival on Sept. 28.
The United Way will sell homemade cookies at the Autumn Historic Folklife Festival on Oct. 20 and 21.
Another event will be the United Way/KHMO Radio auction, with the date announced later.
After the crowd departed Thursday, Lemen said she believed a record number of people attended the event, because the food servers had prepared for 200 servings and ran out, such as cones for the gelato served by Chocolaterie Stam.
“It was a great show,” Lemen said. “It just grows every year.”
For more information about the United Way of the Mark Twain Area, call (573) 221-2761 find it on Facebook or see www.unitedwayNEMO.org.