In commending the efforts of its member station in Amarillo, Texas, PBS helped put to rest perceptions that major metropolitan areas hold a monopoly on large-scale, top-drawer epicurean events.
An innovative, ongoing campaign launched in 2018 by the small but energetic workforce at Panhandle PBS not only generated an increase in local membership, as hoped, but it also elicited an unanticipated national accolade.
Panhandle PBS’s Savor the Goods: A Farm-to-Table Experience has received the prestigious 2019 PBS Development Award for Membership. The annual honor was bestowed on July 10 at the Public Media Development & Marketing Conference in Dallas, with more than 1,000 public media professionals in attendance.
The Membership Award recognizes successful programs or specific techniques and practices among PBS member stations that lead to increases of net revenue and/or membership.
Savor the Goods in 2018 was a series of six thematic dining and educational events, each presented at a different venue and featuring a local chef who presented specialties sourced from the Texas Panhandle.
“It turned into more than we could ever dream, and we are truly honored to be recognized nationally,” Corby Fails, Panhandle PBS’s development coordinator, said. “The people we’ve reached, the community of growers and farmers, the education component … it all elevated awareness across the board.
“It was so successful, in fact, that we’re continuing the series in 2019.”
Patrons not only enjoy unique menus of food and drinks, they are treated to cooking demonstrations amidst thematic place settings and decor designed by the chefs in partnership with the station.
A total of 650 ticketed patrons attended the dinners in 2018, and Panhandle PBS, which is licensed to Amarillo College, gained 83 new members, a 6-percent increase in its overall membership.
In addition to capturing video footage at the dinners themselves, Panhandle PBS videographers capture additional background content on the growers and chefs to be featured on big screens during each event.
That content also is featured in “The Goods” – an on-air series now part of Panhandle PBS’s weekly local issues program, “The Handle.” Segments are also shared online through the station’s social media outlets.
“The uniqueness and creativity that Panhandle PBS puts into each dinner is absolutely outstanding,” said Sam Blackburn, executive chef for Northwest Texas Healthcare System. “They’ve definitely pulled out all of the stops on these dinners.”
Kevin Ball, CEO of Panhandle PBS, said the opportunity for new engagement with community members, donors, farmers, growers, and chefs has sparked a new following of believers in the station’s mission.
As a result of the series, Ball notes, Panhandle PBS has even been invited to join the West Texas Chefs’ Table, an organized outlet for discussion and collaboration among food industry professionals in the Panhandle.
“We are grateful to PBS for recognizing the emphasis we place on creativity in our development efforts,” Ball said. “We want people to have a nice time out while teaching them something new about our area. Savor the Goods has been a great community investment.
“The series was started because Panhandle PBS’s mission is to tell the stories of the people in our area and to have as much local content as possible. The series benefits the station, which then helps us spotlight our community even further.”
Building on its 2018 success, Panhandle PBS has already launched its second season of Savor the Goods and upcoming, one-of-a-kind dining experiences are slated for July 25, Sept. 19 and Nov. 7.
The July event begins at 6 p.m. at Hugo’s on the Square, 407 16th St. in Canyon and will feature executive chef Sam Blackburn of Northwest Texas Healthcare System/Sodexo and chef/owner Rory Schepisi and chef Albert Vargas of The Drunken Oyster.
Support for the July 25 Savor the Goods dinner is provided by Affiliated Foods, Amarillo Classic Events, FirstBank Southwest, Hugo’s on the Square and Reed Beverage, Inc.