Valley Tastings event returns to Donovan Pavilion in Vail Thursday |

Valley Tastings event returns to Donovan Pavilion in Vail Thursday

Mariah Dermody received a youth leadership award from Eagle River Youth Coalition’s Jason Peck at last year’s event.
Pam Peterson Photography | Special to the Daily |

If you go ...

What: Valley Tastings: Food for Youth, a fundraiser to benefit The Eagle River Youth Coalition.

When: 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Donovan Pavilion, Vail.

Cost: $60 per ticket; $25 for youth age 12 and under; $110/2 pack; $200/4 pack; $400/10 pack.

More information: Call 949-9250, or visit

The beneficiary

The Eagle River Youth Coalition’s mission is to collaborate with Eagle River youth-serving organizations to assess prevention needs, coordinate substance abuse prevention efforts and build capacity through strategic plans, programs and policies around the issues facing young people.

Eagle River Youth Coalition strives to make youth a community priority, which they do by collaborating with all youth serving entities in the Eagle River Valley to accurately understand current youth behavior trends, identify service gaps and work collectively to benefit the whole community. Visit to learn more.

Thanks to the tasty food, Valley Tastings is one event where your plus-one won’t grumble about going.

“My husband loves to go. He never complains about going to this type of fundraiser thing because the food is so good,” said Rachel Lammers, a kindergarten teacher at June Creek Elementary School who has been attending the Valley Tastings annual fundraiser with her husband, Chris, for five years now.

The event, now in its eighth year, takes place tonight at Donovan Pavilion in Vail.

It benefits the Eagle River Youth Coalition, which has been around since 2001. Lammers sees the impact the Eagle River Youth Coalition has on the local community, be it through the parent education classes they host with topics like bullying or substance abuse prevention or by putting youth in leadership roles and empowering them through programs like the Youth Leaders Council.

“I think they do so much for the kids and for the school district as well,” Lammers said. “Attending is my way of showing my support. I appreciate what they do for our schools and our kids. It’s my way of contributing to their organization because I think they’re important to have in the community and I want to see them stick around.”


Now back to the food. Tonight’s tapas-style menu includes rock shrimp and charred pineapple salsa on a jicama taco from Tacorico; St. Louis pork ribs from Main St. Grill; housemade sausages from Gore Range Brewery; cheese tortellini with pancetta mushroom marsala sauce from Ti Amo and more. La Bottega, Blue Moose Pizza and Kiwi International Delights and Coffee will also serve specialties at the event. The event ticket includes two drinks and Bonfire Brewery and Avon Liquors will provide the beverages.

For dessert, Batter Cupcakes will serve cinnamon apple cupcake swith spiced cream cheese frosting and caramel drizzle, said owner Liz Rackoff. Batter has been a part of the event since 2008, Rackoff said. All of the food and drinks are donated by the vendors.

So with all of the worthy food-and-drink fundraisers taking place each year in this valley, why does Rackoff choose to support this event?

“When I was growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina, we had a similar program that helped educate our high school community. At that age, I found any guidance and direction beneficial, so it’s a community effort that I believe in,” she said.


Each year, anywhere from 200 and 250 people attend the event and between $10,000 and $14,000 is raised, according to Michelle Hartel Stecher, the executive director of the Eagle River Youth Coalition.

“One hundred percent of the event proceeds directly benefits local collaborative youth and family programs, specifically parenting classes for parents of teens, youth leadership and advocacy programs, and the third area is in-school substance abuse prevention programs for middle school and high school aged students.”

In all, the coalition reaches around 2,600 people a year, Stecher said.

This year is the second year the event takes place at Donovan Pavilion. “Every few years we’ve changed locations to accommodate growing attendees and to make it exciting,” Stecher said.

Along with food and drink, the event includes live music by First Chair, a band based in Eagle that will perform mostly classic rock covers. There’s a silent auction with items including a zipline tour from Zip Adventures, an Avalanche Hot Springs weekend stay, dinner at the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse, Golden Bear jewelry and much more.

And one fun part of the event, which ties into the coalition’s mission with youth, is the youth leadership awards.

“Different community members can nominate young people for service and commitment to our community,” Stecher said. Out of 30 nominees this year, the organization chose five local high school students to honor “for the great work they’re doing in the community,” she said. “Stick around to enjoy inspirational stories of promising young leaders who will be recognized for their commitment to the community.”

Honorees (and their community engagement roles) include:

Summiteer Awards

Carly Volkmer, Eagle Valley High School.

Mike Ramunno, Eagle Valley High School. Member of Youth Leaders Council.

Riley Rowles, Eagle Valley High School. Member of Youth Leaders Council.

Zipliner Award

Sarahi Garcia, Battle Mountain High School, Upward Bound. Member of Youth Leaders Council.

Belay Buddy Award

Michelle Cortes, Eagle Valley High School, Upward Bound.

Vail Daily High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at and 970-748-2984. Follow her on Twitter at @caramieschnell.

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