by Rob Gaston, May 26, 2016

For a quick look at what the Taste of Indiana experience is like, check out this video.

Dig IN, a Taste of Indiana is different from other festivals for many reasons. First, it’s not a charity event or fundraiser. The mission and purpose of the event is to promote Indiana food, beverage, and agriculture. This means promoting businesses that regularly use Indiana ingredients in their menus. In fact, close-to-home sourcing is the key criterion: We only invite vendors to participate who are already using local and Indiana products in their menus.

The second thing to know about the Taste of Indiana is that it is a sampling event. As a vendor, you will not be selling food. When people buy tickets to the festival, they gain access to the event and are allowed up to one sample from each vendor. The most ambitious attendees might make it to every vendor (one sample from each equates to nearly 7 pounds of food), but the important thing is that guests try items from many different restaurants. Your motivation to participate should be to market your restaurant to nearly 5,000 consumers who are actively seeking local foods and who may even travel to you after the event

Third, if you are concerned about the cost of participating, don’t be. In 2016, if you serve a meat-based dish, then we will pay to provide an Indiana-based protein for you to use, and you’ll only need to source the additional produce needed. If you prepare a sweet or vegetable dish, we will pay up to approximately ). We merely ask that you try to keep things as local as possible.

Proteins this year are limited to 25 selections, and non-meat vendors must choose either a sweet or vegetarian item. The new requirement is in response to requests for more variety and more vegetarian options. Registration is offered to past participants first, and the selections are first come, first served. This year, we will also provide paper products such as plates, napkins, forks and spoons through Acorn, who will have a truck on site.

You are responsible for obtaining a Temporary Event Permit from the Marion County Board of Health, which costs $40 (the health department will not allow the Dig IN organization to file for you). There will be a central hand-washing station within each tent. You must bring your own sanitizing solution and any warewashing setup, if needed.

In terms of planning your dish, we recommend preparing something with simple plating. After standing behind your table for a few hours painting that sauce and garnishing your protein, you will wish you had made it simpler. Many thanks to our long-time participants for passing this lesson on.

Finally, Taste of Indiana is not just about building a customer base, it’s about building community. Expect the event to be fun, even if it is a lot of work on a toasty August day. You will likely see both familiar and new faces, and have the opportunity to network with restaurateurs, chefs, farmers, brewers, vintners, and other business owners. We’ve found that once vendors participate, they always want to come back.

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