Entering its fifth year, the Songs for Kids Foundation Food and Music Festival is shaking things up a bit.
Like in years past, the 2019 festival, set for March 24 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Park Tavern in Midtown, will feature food served by up to 20 of metro Atlanta’s top restaurants and chefs. But this year, for the first time in the event's history, it will have a brunch theme, as all the chefs will create their favorite brunch items.
"This year all the city's top chefs are doing brunch, everyone's favorite meal of the day," said Josh Rifkind, who started the foundation in 2007. "What's cool about this is Atlanta's best chefs are putting their putting their spin on brunch. Brunch can be hit or miss, but this is going to be excellent."
Abbey Hunter, the foundation's community outreach manager, said, "There's a lot of competition in the city (with food festivals), so you have to spice things up. We've got great chefs and a great venue that donates the space. Looking at the trends going on in the city, brunch is a huge thing going on in the city these days. If you're going to go out for your favorite meal, you might as well try 20 different restaurants instead of just one."
But the festival is about more than just food. It generates crucial funds for the foundation, a Midtown-based nonprofit that has musicians, including famous ones, perform at children’s hospitals both in metro Atlanta and nationwide to uplift seriously ill or injured patients. Rifkind said he started the foundation to combine the worlds of music and medicine. His father, Ken Rifkind, is a doctor in New York. Rifkind said the foundation had about 1,000 hospital visits nationwide last year and is growing.
This year's event is the first one that will help support the foundation's Songs for Kids Center, which is located in downtown Atlanta and opened in January. Rifkind calls it "a place where kids with illnesses, genetic disorders, special needs and conditions can play music with our music mentors." He said residents can visit the foundation's website (http://bit.ly/2Uz8aAy) and nominate a child to be part of the programming at the center.
Though the organization has hosted public concerts before as part of its 500 Songs for Kids series, the festival is the nonprofit’s largest annual one-day fundraiser. It raised $80,000 in 2018 and is expected to generate at least that much again this year.
"(The festival) is arguably our most important day of the year because the funds raised in this one afternoon can support our programs with many of the kids who are going to be coming to the center year-round now," Rifkind said. "This one day can support a musical journey for a whole year for many kids with a serious illness, disorders or special needs."
The event will include live music from The Sundogs, a tribute band playing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers hits, plus Songs For Kids artists performing live with children from its hospital programs. The festival is child-friendly with special kids zones with bouncy castles, face painting, magic, games and music. But it also has something for adults, including live and silent auctions that include private chef experiences, vacation destinations, VIP concert tickets, spa packages and signed memorabilia.
"It's a great place to go on a date," Rifkind said.
Ditto for Hunter, who has been involved with the festival as a volunteer for four years and today works for the foundation.
"This event stands out to me because it really is fun for every member of the family," she said. "A lot of food-oriented festivals really target a heavy drinking crowd or are out of the price range of most people. (But this festival's) price range is perfect, there are things for kids to do and Mom and Dad can come out and have a glass of wine and have the kids go play on the bouncy house. We intentionally don't pack this one out. We have a big crowd, but we don't make it too tight."
Tickets are $45 for adults, $10 for children 3 to 16 and free for kids under 3.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.songsforkids.org/foodfest.