Record crowds of more than 5,000 descended on the city of Highwood for the Seventh Annual Bloody Mary Fest July 31 in Evert's Park and enjoyed the myriad concoctions presented by 15 competitors from across the Midwest in their quest to claim the title of "Best Bloody Mary."
The competition included a People's Choice Award, as well as formal judging on the Best Bloody Mary and Best Garnish by some of Chicago's leading media personalities.
A panel of judges was composed of Marjie Killeen, "Sex & the Suburbs" columnist for Make It Better Magazine; Lee A. Litas, "Lee's Social Studies" columnist for Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press; Andrew Nicks, president of 22nd Century Media; Patti Vasquez, WGN radio host and nationally touring comedian; Highwood Mayor Charlie Pecaro; and Eric Falberg, Highwood alderman and founder of Bloody Mary Fest.
Each contestant's take on the classic drink was evaluated based on taste, presentation, spice, color, texture and garnish. The following winners of the 2016 Bloody Mary Fest were rewarded with a trophy and bragging rights for the whole year.
Judge's Choice Winners:
• First place: Ballaro, first time competitor and one of Highwood's newest restaurants
• Second place: Miss Mary's Morning Elixir, event sponsor from Eden, Wisconsin
• Third place: Toadstool Pub from Highwood
• First place: Tie between Miss Mary's Morning Elixir and Barrel Crossing Tap & Grill from Highwood.
• Second place: Toadstool Pub
• Third place: Alex's Washington Gardens from Highwood
People's Choice Winners:
• First place: Toadstool Pub, reigning titleholder five years running
• Second place: Miss Mary's Morning Elixir
• Third place: The Ram Restaurant & Brewery from Wheeling
Other competitors included 3 Girls Smiling, The Humble Pub, Jimmy Luv's Bloody Mary Mix, La Casa de Isaac, Pavilion, Master of Mixes, Santi's Gardens, Stu's Kitchen, and The Wooden Nickel.
Bloody Mary Fest sponsors, Miss Mary's Morning Elixir and Tito's Handmade Vodka, provided each competitor with a bottle of Tito's Vodka to concoct their creation. Live music by Zydeco Voodoo and Project Two Music played throughout day.
The event, hosted by the Highwood Chamber of Commerce, raised more than $300 for Northern Suburban Recreation Association, a not-for-profit organization that aims to provide and facilitate year-round recreation programs and services for children, teens and adults with disabilities.
Although a lot of money was not raised, according to Jane McCarthy and Caitlin Deptula, board members of NSSRA, "We were so happy and honored to be apart of this year's fest and were amazed at the turnout of people. We're grateful for the amount of awareness that was raised for NSSRA, what the organization does, and how we help others."
"It is our mission as a chamber to include as many local businesses as possible in these fun events," Highwood Chamber President Julie Brugioni said.
"Promoting and bringing people from all over to our special town of Highwood and back again to shop, dine and drink at our local business. Without the many volunteers and our amazing board of directors, this event would not be possible. The weather was fantastic and Evert's Park was more crowded than ever before."
For more information about NSSRA or ways to get involved, visit www.nssra.org, email jmccarthy@NSSRA.org or call (847) 509-9400. For information about the Highwood Chamber of Commerce, visit www.highwoodchamberofcommerce.com, www.celebratehighwood.com, or call (847) 433-2100.
• To submit Your news with one photo, go to dailyherald.com/share. To submit Your news with multiple photos, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.