GREENFIELD — The ice cream hit the ground with the kind of plop that comes only with a summer’s day and a kid who can’t keep up.
Luke Noack just grinned, a smear of vanilla across his cheeks — the reminder of pre-melted enjoyment. Seated on the courthouse steps, the 8-year-old declared the day a success. Taste of Hancock County was, he signaled with a double thumbs up, delicious.
The fourth-annual fundraising event drew hundreds to downtown Greenfield on Saturday for a night of food, live music and family-friendly entertainment. An artistic flair on the courthouse plaza came from ChalkFest, an event co-sponsored by Greenfield Main Street and the Hancock County Arts Council.
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The Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce partners with Families United for Support and Encouragement, a local nonprofit that provides resources to families raising children with special needs, to host Taste of Hancock County, which features food samples from area restaurants.
For local business owners, the event offers a chance to test-drive new recipes, mingle with customers and spread the word about their menus. For area residents, the offerings along American Legion Place just east of the county courthouse made for diverse dining options and a chance to enjoy the waning days of summer.
Organizers said the event went well, and they were happy the sky cleared after a morning of thunderstorms and rain threatened the outdoor event.
The skies cleared just in time for organizers to finish setting up, and the evening had perfect weather, said Retta Livengood, executive director of the chamber.
Local eateries provided bite-sized portions of everything from sushi to spaghetti. And there was dessert on hand as well.
The event also featured the Colts in Motion traveling museum, which includes Colts memorabilia and team-themed games.
Three bands — Stella Luna and the Satellites, Ripple Effect and The Big 80s — kept the mood lively on stage at the south end of the event.
In a kids zone, children could get their faces painted or play in a bounce house, and a wine and beer tent offered treats for adults.
Dara Kiser of Greenfield sat with her family in front of the courthouse sampling a variety of foods. The family had been planning to attend the event and anxiously eyed the skies that morning. In the end, the temperature was perfect and the event fun, she said, as her young children played around her, their faces smeared with goodies.
“It’s a really wonderful weekend,” she said. “And I like that it’s kid-friendly.”
The event was the brainchild of representatives of FUSE. Organizers wanted to create an event that combined food, music and adult beverages in a central location for county residents, Livengood said.
“Bring your families, bring your friends, make it a date night,” Livengood said. “We love having things downtown.”
Organizers showed up at 7:30 a.m. to start setting up for the event, which began at 4 p.m., but were greeted with thunderstorms — delaying some of their setup work. Eventually, the group had to bite the bullet and get tents and tables ready, Livengood said, hoping the weather would clear.
Dark clouds rolled away, and the sun came out just in time for the event to start, for which organizers were grateful.
“It’s fabulous. It’s a beautiful night to be out in downtown Greenfield. It’s something different than what happens all the time. We’re thrilled,” she said. “The crowds seem to be coming steadily, so that’s a good thing, too.”
Tour of Italy, a restaurant that recently opened east of the courthouse on American Legion Place, set up shop in front of its home, serving garlic knots, spaghetti and fettuccine Alfredo.
Owner James Phillips said the restaurant was happy to join other local restaurants and give residents a taste of what it offers. It was a good crowd, which kept his staff hopping, he said.
Diners and vendors weren’t the only ones applauding the event. Organizers of the third annual ChalkFest also were pleased with attendance. Artists of all ages expressed their creativity with chalk art on the courthouse plaza, and the art was left on display for Taste of Hancock County attendees.
Proceeds from the contest, which offered cash prizes, benefit Greenfield Main Street, a local nonprofit that works to foster enthusiasm and prosperity in downtown Greenfield, and the Hancock County Arts Council, which supports and promotes the arts, humanities, education and cultural activities in Hancock County and the surrounding area.
Shelley Swift, project manager for Greenfield Main Street, said 37 people participated in the contest, up from 25 last year. The theme was “Rock the Chalk,” leading many participants to feature bands and groups from the 1980s on their designated spaces.
Swift was happy with the turnout and grateful the rain stayed away just long enough for artists to finish their work and for attendees to Taste of Hancock County to admire it.
“It’s a beautiful day on the courthouse plaza,” she said.