WOOSTER — As the name suggests, the Wooster Arts Jazz Fest brings lots of bright colors and brassy music to downtown Wooster.
But the Sept. 16 event also features its share of culinary art, this year brought to the event via food trucks. Among the vendors scheduled to be on hand are Flamingo Jack’s, Swissters, Quite Frank, Moose’s Mobile Kitchen and Lerch’s Donuts. The group will offer all sorts of fare, from crepes and doughnuts to gourmet burgers and shrimp and grits.
And food is a topic quite popular with Wooster Rotarians Melissa Pearce and Ann Smith, both of whom are committed cooks with plenty of tips and success stories to their credit.
Smith, a Massillon resident who comes to Wooster as part of her job as an MCTV account executive, joined Wooster Rotary, she said, "because it was a good way to connect." Pearce’s path to club membership is similar. "I am new to working in this community," she said, "and thought it would be a great way to meet people." Now in her third year as president and CEO of Community Action Wayne/Medina, Pearce met Rotarian Lynn Moomaw at a breakfast and was encouraged by her to give the club a try.
Rotary also is part of the partnership that brings the Arts Jazz Fest to the public each year, along with Main Street Wooster, the Wayne Center for the Arts and the Wooster City Schools District, along with the Boys & Girls Club of Wooster. This year’s edition will open at 11 a.m. Sept. 16 and will continue until 6 p.m. with professional artists, children’s art activities and four different music venues that will host musicians playing from all areas of the jazz genre, from New Orleans-style to the blues to zydeco and cool jazz combos.
And, as is the tradition, the River City Jazz Band will lead the traditional New Orleans-style jazz parade at 2:30 p.m.
Both Smith and Pearce have kept busy rounding up volunteers from Rotary who will assist with the set up and tear down of the event, will offer assistance to artists and information to visitors and will generally help out wherever needed. But when they’re not working for a Rotary event or cause, both say they enjoy time in the kitchen. "I’m from a large Italian family," Smith said. "My parents are first generation Italian-Americans but I enjoy eating and cooking food of every ethnicity."
But she admitted she still calls her mother when she has a question or needs help deciphering a recipe.
Smith also is a firm believer of cooking from scratch, rather than eating prepared foods. Thus, she said, adequate prep time is a must. "Weekdays are busy, so I primarily spend Sunday cooking for the week," Smith said, adding that eating healthy requires a lot of kitchen time.
Pearce, like Smith, started early in taking cooking cues from her mother. "Mom was in the Gourmet Club," she said. "They went from house to house" cooking for each other and sharing cooking tips. At one point, she collected cookbooks, but said she now finds so many online recipes sites that a stash of cookbooks no longer seems necessary.
And like Smith, Pearce likes using fresh ingredients and tries to maintain a healthy diet through making and eating salads and dishes that incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables. Still, she said, she’s made some delicious pies, specialty cookies, homemade meatballs and chicken noodle soup.
To accomplish all that, Pearce said, she must have some good kitchen tools: a garlic press, nut chopper and sharp knives.
Her only problem? "I bake too much," she said. "I have a lot to give away."
Reporter Tami Mosser can be reached at 330-287-1655 or firstname.lastname@example.org.