SUWANEE - Rick Dillard fired up his old hickory smoker about 10:30 Friday morning.
Since his pork barbecue takes about six hours to smoke, the owner of Dillard's BBQ & Biscuits had to start early preparing for Taste of Suwanee, a fundraising event for the North Gwinnett Tip-Off Club, which supports North Gwinnett High School's basketball program.
Gwinnett residents who attend the third annual event today will be able to taste the barbecue, as well as stew, as Dillard's and other Suwanee restaurants offer up samples of the spicy, sweet, salty, simple and sophisticated fare the city has to offer.
More than 30 restaurants, dessert/coffee shops and caterers are expected to turn out dishes ranging from fine dining to casual family fare, anything from wings and ribs to pasta and pizza.
"It draws in business," said Dillard, who planned to sample food himself. "Give them a taste of it, newcomers in the city, and they know where to get some good old barbecue."
But Taste of Suwanee isn't just about food. Fun is on the menu, too.
In a festival-like atmosphere at Town Center Park, today's event will feature live music entertainment, special performances, kids activities, an artist market and vendor booths.
More than 200 students from North Gwinnett High School will be on hand to volunteer during today's event.
"It is a fundraiser," said event organizer Deatra Bureau, "but it is truly so much more than that. It's a great place for the basketball players their parents and the coaches to give back to the community."
Admission to Taste of Suwanee is free with tickets to sample food or participate in activities available for 50 cents each. For more information on the event, including details on free shuttle service, visit www.tasteofsuwanee.com.
SideBar: If you go
· What: Taste of Suwanee 2009
· When: Noon to 5 p.m. today
· Where: Town Center Park at the corner of Buford Highway and Lawrenceville Suwanee Dam Road in Suwanee
· Cost: Free to attend
· For more information: Visit www.tasteofsuwanee.com