"We thought it tasted too sweet," said Brenda Alonso as she stood shyly next to her sister behind their lemonade stand. "So we added a little bit of salt." The 10-year-old beamed as I told her what a good idea that had been, her 7-year-old sister Frances hopping up and down next to her in excitement.
The Alonso sisters were one team out of more than 50 who showed up to the Children's Museum on Saturday, April 23, to display their entrepreneurial skills to a dozen judges, including Jillyan Moor, Miss Teen Houston 2011, and Amazing Race 7 winner Uchenna Agu. The annual Best Tasting Lemonade Contest, in which they were all participating, is the kick-off event for the yearly Lemonade Day, where youth across the nation are encouraged to set up lemonade stands to learn skills that will serve them well in the future.
Those entrepreneurial skills were on full display Saturday morning as children proudly displayed their recipes, extolled the health benefits of their lemonade, showed off their impeccably decorated stands and tugged on judges' arms until their lemonade had been tried and tested by everyone present.
Although I was only supposed to judge 12 out of the dozens of stands, it was difficult not to try each sample; the kids had clearly worked very hard, after all.
A no-nonsense 14-year-old girl in a hijab and Girl Scout sash introduced herself as Yaiyina before she quickly launched into an explanation of her team's mint lemonade sweetened with honey. "The mint is good for your stomach," she said, "and the local honey is good for allergies and asthma." True or not, I liked her pitch, and I loved the way she carefully poured her lemonade over a silver tea strainer onto some ice cubes before handing it over.
Her team, no surprise, ended up winning second place in the Healthiest Lemonade category (along with earning some Girl Scout badges in the process). Awards were given for Most Original and Best Tasting as well, presented by emcee Miya Shay from KTRK Channel 13 and Imperial Sugar CEO John Sheptor.
A delicious strawberry-basil lemonade won Most Original, and one of my favorites of the day, presented by a 13-year-old named Patricia, won for Best Tasting Lemonade. Patricia had only had a small, simple stand, but her lemonade with chunks of strawberry, mango, lime and blood oranges had wowed everyone who tasted it.
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This coming Sunday, May 1, is Lemonade Day, and aside from all the youngsters who participated in the event at the Children's Museum, you'll see lemonade stands across town at places like Discovery Green and other local parks -- perhaps even in your own neighborhood. Be sure to stop by, buy a lemonade and help Houston's kids invest in their own futures.
For more photos from the Best Tasting Lemonade Contest, check out our slideshow.