By Peter Schwartz
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If you are not one of the fortunate people to land a ticket for Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on February 2, you can still take part in one of the premier events of the week, and it is for a very worthy cause.
Super Bowl week isn’t just about the game, but it’s also about the entire week and all of the activities leading up to Super Sunday. One aspect of Super Bowl week is the array of parties that take place. There is one party in particular that has become the hot ticket, and that is the Taste of the NFL: Party with a Purpose.
The 23rd annual event takes place in the Super Bowl host city every year, and it will come to our area the night before the Super Bowl on Saturday, February 1 at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. The proceeds benefit food banks — not just in the host city, but in all NFL markets.
With the Super Bowl in NY/NJ for the first time, Taste of the NFL finally makes its way to the Big Apple.
“I’m about as excited as you can be,” said event founder and executive director Wayne Kostroski. “As far as our mission to raise awareness, and dollars for hunger and the message itself with all the players, and chefs and celebs, where else is the epicenter of all of that?”
That would be New York, where current or former players and chefs will represent all 32 NFL teams and the Pro Football Hall of Fame will volunteer its time for a party that will draw a crowd of 3,000 people. Upon entry, guests will receive a plate and a wine glass before sampling all of the delectable foods and wines from around the country.
At each station, there will be a chef offering a signature dish as well as a player who will sign autographs and pose for a picture. As far as our local teams are concerned, former Giants lineman Bill Ard and former Jets running back Freeman McNeill will be on hand to chat it up.
They have always lent a helping hand to the event in the past, but this year is different.
“That’s there home turf and they’ve been incredibly important to us,” said Kostroski. “They’re in because they want to be and they want to make a difference.”
And that is to help fight hunger in our country. Since its inception, Taste of the NFL has raised $14 million. For every dollar raised, a food bank can provide eight meals, so Taste of the NFL has raised enough money over the years to provide 112 million meals for the hungry.
The one-year record donation was $1 million three years ago in North Texas. With the event in New York this year, the hope is to top that mark. After all, there is no substitute for our region!
“The resources are available to make this the best event ever,” said Kostroski. “There is a very good chance that we will top that donation. The fact that we’re holding it in the New York area is very exciting and its even more special that we’re going to be in Brooklyn.”
Brooklyn has been pretty active in the sports business recently. with the opening of Barclays Center, the relocation of the Nets from New Jersey and the future relocation of the Islanders — sore point for me — Brooklyn has been on a winning streak!
After an exhausting search of some 2,000 locations in New York and New Jersey, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal was selected to be this year’s site for this remarkable event.
“This is the absolute perfect location for us,” said Kostroski. “Once we looked at the opportunity that is there in Brooklyn and the excitement of the entire city with the restaurant community, (the decision) really kept coming back there.”
Tickets for Taste of the NFL are available, but they are going fast. The event sells out every year, usually in December. But this year, 65 percent of the tickets have already been sold, and we could be looking at the earliest and fastest sellout in event history.
Taste of the NFL began in Minneapolis back in 1992 and was a great success. Over the years, it has grown into a mega-event because it’s a party that has everything.
“If you’re into food, you’ve died and gone to heaven,” said Kostroski. “It has the very best wines in the country. You have players from current players to alumni to Hall of Famers.”
Over 18 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame are expected to be on hand, including Anthony Munoz (Bengals), Joe DeLamielleure (Bills), Randall McDaniel (Vikings) and Jack Youngblood (Rams).
In addition to the great food, wine and players, Taste of the NFL also features auctions where guests can bid on some great sports memorabilia, as well as other surprises.
And then there’s the entertainment. Around the first week of the playoffs, a musical guest will be announced. Past performers have included Sara Evans, Souls Asylum, Martina McBride, Barenaked Ladies, Brooks and Dunn and Styx.
So with the party in New York this year, there is no shortage of possibilities for musical acts.
“There are a few musicians in New York, and we’re working on a couple of musicians or bands that would have the extra element of some special guests wanting to come by and join that band,” said Kostroski.
Hmmm. I’m wondering if any of these performers could possibly play the piano?
“My gosh, I think he made a living playing his piano,” said Kostroski, not so subtly suggesting who he might be talking to.
“We’re talking to a number of different people,” said Kostroski. “I’m familiar with that piano player, and we have not gotten a ‘no’ yet.”
Back in 1997, the first musical act was an all-star band that included members of the Grand Funk Railroad, Billy Preston and a couple of guys from Billy Joel’s band.
“Liberty Devito and Mark Rivera from the piano player’s band,” said Kostroski, who expects to finalize a musical act by mid-December.
All in all, Taste of the NFL is a wonderful event. Tickets can be purchased indivudally or as a VIP Table. For the first time this year, a Diamond Experience Package is being offered. For more information, you can go here.
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