The 16th Annual Taste of Kokomo really is giving Kokomo a taste of what it has to offer on Aug. 18 from 5 to 10:30 p.m in downtown Kokomo.

From food to music to some really creative additions, the festival is set to showcase plenty of the community’s best.

This year’s Taste is ready with 11 new-to-the-festival vendors, including Tokyo Cuisine that will bring downtown some sushi and First and Last Chance Saloon that will fill stomachs with gizzards.

“There’s just some really new and interesting stuff. It’ll be a lot of fun,” said Beth Rattray, communications director of the United Way of Howard County.

Organizers also worked hard to include some of the mom-and-pop restaurants that haven’t been able to participate in the past by making them a part of some of the events, like the Tenderloin Throwdown.

“Some of these places can’t be vendors because they can’t close on a Saturday night, so some of the tenderloin places are going to get a chance to come out and still be a part of it,” Rattray said. “Because this is the Taste of Kokomo, and that’s what we’re all about.”

Participating in the Tenderloin Throwdown will be Artie’s Tenderloin, Mulligan’s Sports Pub, Ned’s Corner Pub, Ray’s Drive-In, and Cook McDoogal’s.

“They all hand cut, hand pound, and fry it themselves. They’re their own tenderloin, so it’ll be the best in the land,” she said.

Judges will vote for the best tenderloin, and attendees can vote on a People’s Choice winner.

Rattray said it won’t be an easy choice, and she knows this firsthand.

“I went around and tasted every single one of them,” she said. “They were delicious, every one. They were all very, very different but really, really good.”

Then, offering some of the grillers a chance to showcase their top-notch burger making skills will be the Gourmet Burger Challenge.

“They’ll come and make their best burger. Anything goes. They can have 10 different cheeses. They can make sauces. They can put rubs on them. We don’t care. It’s the best of the best of them,” she said.

Judges will vote to name a winner, and anyone wanting to taste the burgers will have a chance to.

For the steak and wine lovers, Sister Catherine Kelly of St. Joseph Hospital has put together Red on Red, a steak and wine pairing event.

“It’s any steak that you choose. You pick it, and then you pair it with a wine,” she said. “It’s a little more of the professionals.”

The pairings will be judged, and samples will be available.

Participating in Red on Red are chef JoAnn Rozzi from Rozzi’s Catering, last year’s Grillmaster Challenge winner John Mercer, Sister Cathy, and Mike Hatfield, a 2010 graduate of Glass Canopy and Johnson and Wales student who’ll be accompanied by Shelly Rust of Glass Canopy.

“They’re local experts, if you will. It’s a very diverse bunch,” she said. “I’m excited to see how they work together.”

Then, what would a Taste of Kokomo be without some food-eating challenges? This year is bringing two, the Blazing Challenge where participants will scarf down hot wings, and the Burrito Chomp, which will challenge burrito lovers to eat seven pounds of deliciousness.

In addition, McClure’s Orchard will be on site with a half hour of wine tasting, and Kyle Gibson from The Social Experience will finish off the night with Mixology, a bartending competition all about speed, accuracy, and finesse.

For the younger crowd, Kids Korner is bigger than ever. It’ll feature games, crafts, a balloon launcher, bounce houses, face painting, balloon animals, Techno Kats, and the Kids BMV.

For the teens, a dance will take place from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. on the corner of Buckeye and Walnut streets. Teens will have their own vendors—Poppin’ Chalk’s Kettle Corn, Kona Ice, Henna Tattoos, and a deejay. Hip-hop groups from Dance Elite will kick off the dance.

Then, new this year, Peddle to Park is creating an interesting way for patrons to get to the festival. Ride your bike, and Victory Bikes will offer you a chance to valet park your bike on the northeast corner of Washington and Sycamore.

Of course, there will be lots of music taking place on two stages. The bands are Gypsy Revival from 5 to 5:45, BL Benson from 5:45 to 6:30, Linda Lee from 6:30 to 7:15, Southside from 7:15 to 8, Shiny Penny and the Critical Shoes from 8 to 8:45, Rewind from 8:45 to 9:30, and Roger’s Ritual from 9:30 to 10:30.

All proceeds from The Taste of Kokomo benefit the United Way of Howard County. Entry tickets sold the day of the event are $3 (children 5 and under free). Pre-sale entry tickets will be available for $3 and includes two free food tickets. Tickets are available at the United Way of Howard County, 210 W. Walnut St.

All food and drink items are sold for tickets, not cash. One food/drink ticket is worth $1. All items cost between one and five ticket(s). Wine and beer will be served in the beer garden.

The Taste of Kokomo is sponsored by Altrusa, BCR Group, City of Kokomo, Coca-Cola, Community First Bank, Duke Energy, Fairbanks, Fortune Management, Guardian Angel Hospice, Gordon Food Service, Indiana Pest Control, Indiana University Kokomo, Ivy Tech Community College, J.Edwards Fine Chocolates, Gourmet Cakes & Unique Gifts, Mid-America Beverage, McGonigal Buick Cadillac GMC Button Chrysler Jeep Dodge RAM, Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, Pastariffic, Solidarity Credit Union, Southern Care, St.Joseph Hospital, Stelko, The Wyman Group, and Young’s Culligan.