The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 8, 2012

‘Souper’ Spring fever

By Sarah Plummer
Register-Herald Reporter

BECKLEY — It’s time to catch a case of spring fever and head out to Uptown Beckley’s first festival of the season — the second annual ‘Souper’ Spring Fever.

A fundraiser for Theatre West Virginia and the City of Beckley, the April 21 event will be a block party from 4 to 7 p.m. and will feature a soup cook-off and entertainment.

The event is expected to be better than ever.

Gayle Bowling, general manager of Theatre West Virginia, explained, “When we did Souper for the first time last year, we had never done anything like it before. Despite the fact that the weather was uninviting, we had about 300 people turn out.

“What we learned was that it is an inexpensive block party and people were ready to come out and socialize after the winter,” she continued. “We hope to see it grow every year to some day be on the scale of Chili Night.”

According to Jill Moorefield of Beckley Renaissance, “This event is similar to Chili Night, but with soups. We hope the community will support the event as it offers a great way to have fun, try delicious soups, and also show support for Theatre West Virginia.”

Last year The Lost Parrot Bar and Grill took the First Place Business Trophy and won Second-place Judge’s Choice.

Owner Julian Chipley said The Lost Parrot’s kitchen staff and his wife, Diana, made a Taco Soup that was a huge hit.

They plan to participate again this year and may try to take more trophies with the Taco Soup again, he said.

“This is a new event. From my experience being involved in Chili Night for 17 years and the Taste of Beckley, I know it takes a while for them to grow, but this type of event gets bigger every year,” he said.

“There are new businesses downtown and we are finally at the point where we have a big event in Uptown Beckley each month starting with Souper in April through the summer and fall. These events are bringing people into our Uptown,” he added.

Jo Crouser, EMS supervisor for the Ghent Fire Department, said this year’s weather will be leaps and bounds above what it was last year.

Last year, the crowds fought rain and snow, she said.

The Ghent Fire Department was “pleased and shocked” to win the First Place People’s Choice Trophy, she explained. “Our philosophy was that we did not go up there to win. We just wanted to enjoy ourselves and mingle with the community.”

The fire department will probably return to try to wow the crowd again, although the community should expect a different soup, added Crouser.

Leslie Baker, Youth Museum coordinator, was a guest judge for last year’s Souper.

She offers some advise for those preparing to hit the streets, try the soup and vote for their favorite this year.

“It was not as easy to pick my favorite soup as I thought it was going to be. There was a wide variety of soups and they were all wonderful. I don’t remember one of them being so-so or uninteresting,” she said. “It was enlightening to see how many wonderful cooks there are in Beckley.”

She advises soup aficionados that although the soup is served in tiny cups, by the time you get through four or five of them, you start to get full.

“I would advise everyone to take a small bite and revisit their favorites soups as needed. Don’t eat the entire sample at once,” she said.

Tickets will be $5 for four tickets; each ticket is good to sample one of the 30 soup vendors.

Attendees can receive one free sample ticket by bringing a can of soup to be donated to the Salvation Army (limit one can per person).

The public will vote for the best soup.

There will be 20 additional non-soup vendors at the festival.

For more information, call Beckley Renaissance at 304-256-1776, Theatre West Virginia at 304-256-6800, or visit the theater online at www.theatrewestvirginia.com.

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com