Roanoke Revealed

The Big Lick Cocktail Classic at the Patrick Henry

The Big Lick Cocktail Classic at the Patrick Henry

The Big Lick Cocktail Classic is an annual fundraiser for LEAP for local food, which was held this year on February 20th at The Patrick Henry (a historically significant former hotel that’s been repurposed).

What a fun and festive crowd it drew. Many came costumed, clearly intent on celebrating the Mardi Gras theme. Viewing some of the attire from below the balconies (that’s what alerted me to more entertainment upstairs), I half expected shirts to get lifted and beads to be tossed. Maybe they did – I left quite a bit earlier than the literal 11th hour.

I do appreciate irony, so had to laugh when the registration band affixed to every attendee’s wrist advertised a DUI attorney, complete with phone number and web address for easy access. This event features a variety of specialty alcoholic drink stations manned and concocted by area restaurants.Big Lick Cocktail Classic in Roanoke

Fat Tuesday furnished New Orleans style music. If you haven’t heard them, they’re a lot of fun and worth looking for.

This event included drinks from Martin’s Downtown, Blue Apron, Local Roots, Fortunato, Lucky, Blue Ridge Catering, Wall Street Tavern, The River and Rail, and Billy’s. There were also some Cajun-themed appetizers scattered throughout the venue. Many of the restaurant participants make it a point to buy local for their food menus, so it was nice fit with the LEAP mission {a 501(c)3}, which is to nurture healthy communities and resilient local food systems by connecting local farmers, food producers, culinary entrepreneurs and community members.

Going to such events provides unexpected opportunities. I’ve been looking for local restaurants to sample and the smart participants brought menus. I’ll look for the Fat Tuesday band in the future. This event provided an education, too, on some curious things about the challenges that come with making this a successful fundraiser for LEAP – and the surprising hurdles they face to get past break-even with Virginia ABC policy.

Lots of people, food, fun and drinks at the LEAP Big Lick Cocktail Classic in RoanokeBut, perhaps the biggest surprise was the Patrick Henry. It is a beautiful Colonial Revival building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Initially constructed as a hotel that opened in 1925, today’s place underwent a $20 million renovation completed in 2011 to include apartments, office space, retail and – get this – dorm rooms (for Jefferson College of Health Sciences). If you’re in Roanoke, this building, at 611 Jefferson Street, is something to see. They did a fabulous job renovating and repurposing a condemned and foreclosed property to capture old charm with accommodations for a changing Roanoke.

It makes me smile and often chuckle to see the creative ways the Roanoke business community reinvents itself to ensure an economically prosperous city. This is a downtown that’s vibrant at a time when others are suffering. Come get some creative ideas on how you can help your challenged urban community prosper from some of the fun that’s happening here.

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