For two decades, crowds gathered each March at the Bowls and Books Soup Fest at the Rhode Center for the Arts, 514 56th St.
The annual event features local restaurants and caterers serving up soup in two sessions, for lunch and dinner crowds, while raising funds for ongoing renovations of the historic building.
The 20th annual event, however, was canceled in March of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
That left organizers scrambling on how to raise funds without the event. A separate issue was: What to do with the 400 souvenir bowls?
“We had those bowls ready to go in March,” said Sharon Rossow, one of the organizers. “We had them here at the Copy Center all this time and, as the end of the year approached, we decided we had to do something with them.”
That “something” morphed into “Bowls and Books 2020 Style.”
Here’s how it works: Instead of a huge in-person event, for $25, patrons can purchase a souvenir Bowls and Books soup mug and a punch card good for a free cup of soup with the purchase of a meal or sandwich at 13 local restaurants.
The punch card special is good through January. If you don’t want the souvenir mug, the punch card alone is $20.
The soup mugs and punch cards are available for purchase at the Copy Center, 5038 Sixth Ave., open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, or online at www.rhodecenter.org. The items will also be available at the Downtown Pollard Gallery, 518 56th St.
Participating restaurants are Ashling on the Lough, the Boat House, Captain Mike’s, the Coffee Pot, Franks Diner, Morelli’s Deli, Ruffolo’s Pizza, Sazzy B, The Buzz, The Down Town’R Saloon, tg’s Restaurant & Pub, Twisted Cuisine and Union Park Tavern.
Sharon’s mother, Judy Rossow, first organized the event, which also featured local authors selling their books, a Pollard Gallery art exhibit and a 50/50 raffle drawing.
At the heart of the fundraiser, however, was the soup — and the patrons.
“We’ve tried different things and adding different elements over the years, but it always boils down to soup and conversation,” Judy Rossow told the Kenosha News at the 2019 event.
Sharon Rossow said the punch card effort “is a way to do what we can to help the theater and the local restaurants. January is a difficult time for restaurants, even without COVID. We’re doing what we can to help and keep the spirit of the event going.”
She joked that “people have said we should sell the mugs just so they can smash them in frustration at 2020. You can keep the mug or smash it once you buy it; just smash it responsibly.”
The punch card, she added, is also good for carryout orders, for people who don’t feel comfortable dining inside. For more information, call Sharon Rossow at the Copy Center, 262-654-9030.