Food. It always draws a crowd.

Residents of the Greater New Milford area are invited to sample a variety of foods at the upcoming A Taste of New Milford.

The seventh annual event will grace the Village Green Sept. 11 from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

Restaurants, caterers, bakers and other food providers will serve samples of their food at the Greater New Milford Chamber of Commerce event, which is sponsored and organized by Nicholas/Tobin & Associates Insurance.

"The idea is, if you're looking for a place to go eat and you haven't been before, it's a great time to sample their food," said Jeff Kilberg of Nicholas/Tobin, one of the event's organizers.

In addition, attendees are invited to numerous offerings at downtown businesses that night (see sidebar, BQ24).

The event is the third big Chamber offering in just a few months, following the Fourth of July celebration and the Village Fair Days.

For ATaste of New Milford, three large tents will be erected on the center section of the Green to showcase the almost 30 participating restaurants (see sidebar, this page), while the crossover near the bandstand will be closed to traffic to allow for live music by the Blue Yodels.

Businesses from New Milford, Washington, Kent, Sherman and Brookfield will participate, many of them repeat participants and some of them newcomers.

Richard Herrington of Nicholas/Tobin, one of the organizers, said last year's event drew 900 people.

He praised and applauded participants because preparing samples to serve nearly 1,000 people, and having staff on hand at the Taste of New Milford, takes time and extra labor.

But he feels the business exposure pays off.

"It's a great opportunity for exposure for all local businesses and restaurants, and lets them showcase what New Milford has to offer," said Liba Furhman, executive director of Hunt Hill Farm Trust at The Silo in the Northville section of New Milford.

"And it's a good way to give back to the community," said Furhman, who cited the participation of The Silo's Cooking School for many years.

"The fun part is, it's not just about the food," said Herrington.

He said other offerings will be available. Many stores will stay open late, play host to special events at their businesses and offer discounts.

A handout with the layout of the tents and participants, along with a map of downtown showcasing the businesses that will offer special activities, will be provided with admission.

Kilberg and Herrington said they hope people will sample food and then move about the downtown area to participate in other activities.

As this year's event is planned for the 12th anniversary of 9/11, first responders with proper identification will be admitted to the event for free.

General tickets are $10 for those 10 and older and $5 for children under 10.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Community Culinary School of Northwestern Connecticut, which teaches training and job placement to people interested in the food service industry (see sidebar, BQ24).

"The culinary school seemed the perfect recipient," Herrington explained, "because they train and supply labor, and any restaurant/business is going to need good quality people."

"Even though we are the beneficiary of this event," said Dawn Hammacott, culinary school program director, "what we really appreciate is what Nicholas/Tobin is doing for the town in that they are helping to promote all of the wonderful restaurants in New Milford and surrounding towns."

"It's a wonderful event for the people who attend who get to sample food for a relatively inexpensive fee," she said. "It's a great night out."

This will be the sixth year the culinary school will participate in A Taste of New Milford.

The following morning, the school will hold its annual breakfast at 8 a.m. under the same tents.

The breakfast is open to the public, with $10 admission.

For more information about the breakfast, call the school at 203-512-5791.