By Lindsay Eckert
Tribune lifestyle editor
For race car drivers, the ultimate taste after winning the greatest spectacle in racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a cold drink of milk on Victory Lane. However, Kokomo, a racing town itself, celebrates the season of fast cars and warm weather with its own favorite tastes during the 19th Annual Greatest Spectacle in Tasting.
It’s a tradition that started simply and grew for generations, as the owners of Soupley’s wanted to give back to the community that raised them.
“We’re a small, local family who started out here in Kokomo,” Lisa Rayl, an owner of Soupley’s, said. “We were born and raised here, we all went to school here and we wanted to give back.”
Rayl said the event has made each of its 18 events better than the last. The celebration’s 19th year will have everyone feeling like they’re in Victory Lane, Rayl said.
“The Greatest Spectacle in Tasting started off as a wine tasting event. Then, we added the beer tasting and Rozzi’s Catering has been with us the whole time,” she said. “We have over 100 wines this year. ... We’ve included several higher-end wines. Some wines we included this year range from $80 to $96 a bottle in our stores. They will be a treat for people to try.”
Rayl said the event’s name was born from their family’s love of the Indianapolis 500, which will be highlighted throughout the event.
“We’re race fans, and Indy car race fans [specifically], so when we were trying to think of a name for the event, our love of racing came into it,” Rayl said about her husband’s idea for the name. “We’ll also have a wine from A.J. Foyt. In the past, we’ve had wines from the Andretti family. A lot of the racers own vineyards and we carry their products in our stores.”
Rayl, who heads up the wine tasting for the event, said there will be some wines that add a fizz to the festivities May 18.
“We’ll have a lot of diverse wines; dry and sweet. But we will also have a lot more sparkling wines; that’s a hot market. Plus, we’ll have a lot of new releases with the dry wine blends. There will be a lot of new wines [we just started carrying in our stores],” Rayl said.
Rayl’s husband and Soupley’s owner, Kyle Rayl, said the event may offer dynamic tastes, but it’s giving back to the community and helping Bona Vista that makes the event sweeter than its array of sparkling wines.
“We like giving back to the community. It’s one of the things we do ... to be involved and give back to the people who support you,” Kyle said. “The neat thing about doing it so many years is a lot of people help support it and they keep coming back each year to help us.”
According to Kyle, the event raised $14,000 in 1995, its inaugural year, and has raised $550,000 in its 18 years. For the Rayls, time seems to speed by when you’re having fun for a good cause.
“It doesn’t seem like we’ve been doing it 19 years. It’s gone by really fast and it’s been a lot of fun,” Kyle said. “It’s a good event that people really enjoy and it’s like a nice little street party where everyone gets together to start out their summer season and help Bona Vista. It’s a very enjoyable evening out.”
Kyle said the event is also host to a silent auction with items ranging from a tractor and vacations to a Jim Beam drum set. The band Loose Change will be on hand to provide the evening’s sounds of fun and entertainment.
Brittnee Burton, director of development for Bona Vista, said Soupley’s has been a cheerleader for the organization and motivated other businesses to do the same.
“For a local business to donate over half a million dollars to a nonprofit organization is quite the feat,” Burton said. “Soupley’s rallies support from their vendors, local businesses and donates so many items to make this event happen.”
Burton said with the support of Soupley’s and the kindness of the Kokomo community The Greatest Spectacle of Tasting is one of her busiest times — and she couldn’t be happier.
“Soupley’s works in conjunction with Bona Vista to make this an enjoyable event for the community and all the people who come out and support the event itself — without them the event would never happen,” Burton said. “We have so many businesses that continue to jump on board with this event each year with a monetary or item donation. Most times my phone calls last about 30 seconds because the answer is always a ‘yes’ from our local supporters.”
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