March 11, 2017 10:13:16 PM
The Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau is accepting nominees this month for April's Starkville Restaurant Week charity competition.
The deadline is March 27. To nominate a charity, visit Starkvillerestaurantweek.com/nominate.
Created in 2013 as a way to show off Starkville's growing culinary scene, the Greater Starkville Development Partnership leverages advertising dollars with the event's charity aspect as a way to attract out-of-town visitors to participating restaurants.
This year's event is scheduled for April 17-23, which coincides with Mississippi State University's home baseball series against the University of Alabama (April 20-22), and two of MSU softball's three-game home stand against the University of Arkansas (April 22-24).
"We strategically chose (the week) to encompass the home series against Alabama. These guests are within driving distance and are who we hope to attract for return visits to our community," said Jennifer Prather, the Partnership's special events coordinator. "We are excited about working more closely with our restaurants to use SRW as a special way to showcase each of their individual talents through specials and pre-fixed menu options that they will create for the week."
A charity aspect -- one in which diners who order qualifying entrees are allowed to vote for an organization to receive a $5,000 donation -- was added so the Partnership could use the ballots as a way to track participation and add tourists' information to its data banks.
Twenty-nine restaurants participated in last year's event. Prather did not release how many businesses have agreed to take part in April's event but said the Partnership is "still in the recruiting process."
SCVB, one of the groups under the GSDP's management umbrella, opens the nomination window each winter and picks three charities to compete in the event based on nominations received and how much excitement -- diner participation, specifically -- the groups will create.
The main requirement for a charity is holding a 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation with the IRS. That designation, Prather said, allows donations to stay local and be used to benefit the community.
"The number of nominations a charity receives during the process is one of the most heavily weighted factors that we consider, however, even more important is that we filter those nominations to narrow down unique modifiers. For example, a charity with 1,000 individual nominations would be weighed heavier than a charity with 1,000 nominations from one person," she said. "Those unique nominations correlate to guests eating in restaurants during the event and show the power of a group to mobilize its supporters."
For Brian Kelley -- whose Eat Local Starkville partnership with Chef Ty Thames includes Bin 612, City Bagel Cafe, The Guest Room and Restaurant Tyler -- SRW serves as an opportunity for his businesses to "showcase what we do to a larger audience."
"While (SRW) itself is a good week in terms of financial impact, more important is having an opportunity to host people that may not have tried us out before," he said. "Obviously, we hope to make a good impression on them and become a place that they want to come back to and tell their friends about. It is an awesome event for our local charities as well, and we are glad to be a part of it."
Last year's grand prize winner, Backpack Buddies, received 5,530 out of 12,893 ballots in the week.
Previous winners include the Oktibbeha County Humane Society, Mississippi State University's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Clinic and the university's T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability.
This year's prize sponsors include: Cadence Bank ($5,000 for first place), Vollor Law Firm ($1,000 for second place) and Ross, Kelley and Martin PLLC ($500 for third place).
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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