Pumpkins like this one, entered in the 2006 Harvest Fair, will again me featured at this year’s annual event.

The Rogue has a bite

Where can you catch an iron chef competition, grape stomp heat, ice carving competition and a Grammy award-winning band all in one weekend? At the Bite of the Rogue, of course.

This weekend marks the first Bite of the Rogue event, which will showcase all things unique to Southern Oregon. From Friday night at five to Sunday at six p.m., those attending can enjoy performances by local musicians, wine, specialty foods, and autumn activities, while simultaneously giving back to the community.

The Bite, which has paired up with the Harvest Fair, is one of the main fundraising events for the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Rogue Valley.

"It really truly is an important event for us," said Danette McCann, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs.

For the $6 adult admission price (children under 11 get in free), there is a long lineup of activities and tastings.

The activities and events include a canine agility competition, chili cook-off and tasting, a talent show, bagpipe concert and more.

If eating and drinking suit you better, try some of the Rogue's culinary bounty.

Some of the vendors making their products available for tasting include; Wild River Brewing and Pizza Co., Dutch Bros. Coffee, Gary West Smoked Meats, Rogue Creamery and Harry and David.

Many local vineyards and wineries will be offering wine tastings for those over 21.

The only thing not included in the price of admission is the grand finale Robert Cray Band performance at Lithia Motors Amphitheater, which is an additional $36-$40.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Rogue Valley, which will benefit from the Bite of the Rogue Festival, offer a valuable service to kids after school.

The after-school programs provide a safe atmosphere in which kids can learn and play.

"It's a fun environment, but it's really an extension of a school day too, in a less formal, more interactive environment," McCann said.Without fundraising events like this one, there would be no way to run the program, since the cost to parents is just $30 a year per child.

There are five locations in Southern Oregon: Cave Junction, Grants Pass, White City, Talent and Phoenix — mostly the areas with a lack of other after-school programs.

Boys and Girls Clubs makes a special effort to reach out to disadvantaged children.

"But today's definition of disadvantage has changed. There is a greater range. It could be a child from a single mom, or a homeless parent, to a child with two working doctors," said McCann.

The Bite of the Rogue project, she says, which has been in the works for well over a year, has generated over $50,000 through sponsorship so far. By the end of the event they hope to have raised $100,000. In Southern Oregon alone, 6,000 kids a year benefit from the Boys and Girls clubs.

Rogue Federal Credit Union, the event's main sponsor, has contributed significantly to the fundraiser.

Besides the sponsorship money they donated, they sell tickets at each of their locations, and will have numerous volunteers working at the event. RFCU employees will use their expertise to handle the money, take tickets and usher.

"The main reason we wanted to get involved, is the credit union has a huge heart for kids. We work hard to provide options and to make lives better for the kids in the community we serve," said Gene Pelham, president of Rogue Federal Credit Union.

Pelham says that this is a great opportunity to showcase local restaurants, and for people to see what the valley has to offer as well.

"We're really excited to be partners with the Jackson County Expo and the Harvest Fair as well, these events have paired together really nicely," he said.

There is another Boys and Girls Club fundraiser in April called Taste of the Rogue, which is similar to Bite of the Rogue, but is held in Josephine County.

"It's one of those things that is new but it could really take to the valley," Pelham said.

Tickets are available at all Rogue Federal Credit Union branches, or at the door. For information, call 479-5258 or visit biteoftherogue.com.

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