By Robb Murray
---- — MANKATO — For the second go-around, the Minnesota Valley Action Council's Warm Your Heart event — where soup makers compete for top honors and attendees contribute to a good cause — got a little boost in terms of "wow factor."
A donor has given the event an African safari tour valued at nearly $6,000.
They've moved the event to the newly remodeled ballroom at Minnesota State University's Centennial Student Union.
They've added valet parking.
And, most importantly, there will be more soups to try.
The fundraiser pulled in $25,000 last year. This year they're hoping to exceed that. Proceeds this year will go to help MVAC's goal of establishing its ambitious food hub project.
So far MVAC has 25 farmers on board that will be growing food for the hub. MVAC is in the process of setting prices and figuring out what kinds of foods will be available.
"We'll have two dozen locally grown food types," MVAC's Jim Gehrke said. "Everything from apples to zucchini."
The hub is expected to open in July.
As for the event, 18 restaurants are planning to bring their best soup to compete for one of two awards. Like last year there will be a people's choice award as well as an award bestowed by a panel of guest judges.
Last year, The Lakes Restaurant in Lake Crystal won both awards.
About 200 people came to last year's event. This year, organizers are hoping to get closer to 300. They're also hoping some fine details such as valet parking and coat checking will give the event a ritzier feel.
If You Go What: Minnesota Valley Action Council's Warm Your Heart event When: Saturday Where: Minnesota State University's Centennial Student Union Ballroom Cost: General admission tickets are $50, reserved tables for eight are $500. Order tickets online at www.mnvac.org, or purchase them at the MVAC offices weekdays until 4:30 p.m. Attire is described at "Denim and Diamonds," meaning wear blue jeans or formal. Either is OK. Proceeds will help Minnesota Valley Action Council create a food hub.