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Annual Expo Rated Resounding Success
The fragrant smoke of grilling meat tickled the nostrils, bands pounded away on guitars and drums, crowds of laughing, smiling visitors browsed the various merchandise booths, chomped on hot dogs, fries and a variety of other foods or giggled together as they lifted a wine glass. Riverbank's annual Cheese and Wine Exposition was back in town again.

"It was a very successful event," said Al Veldstra, event chairman for Riverbank Rotary Club that puts on the annual festival, played out on the streets of the city this past weekend. "The temperature was perfect. All the vendors I spoke to were very happy. The crowds were large. People in the wine tasting area were pleased. It all went off very well. We had very few complaints."

Serving as expo coordinator this year was Chris Elswick, who worked in cooperation with Rotary to make things come off smoothly.

Asked if there were any changes or improvements he would make for next year, Veldstra said "only minor tweaking, maybe reposition a fence here and there."

The main impact on Rotary's arrangements this year was construction of the teen center that took up space they'd previously used for the children's amusements. This year they had to move them further east into the park.

"We had a couple of new events," he added. "The petting zoo was very popular and the miniature NASCAR racing track drew a lot of people."

The entertainment this time, the bands at both ends of the street fair, seemed a "higher caliber than before," he added. "That Walker Hayes was a hit. Some of my volunteers and staff were going gaga over him."

"He's a newcomer to the country music scene. But we believe he will become a big star. Those people who came to see him will be able to say they saw a star in the making. He's very talented and very easy on the eye," noted Mark McLean of Citadel, the group that owns several radio stations that book the bands for the festival.

City Manager Rich Holmer echoed Veldstra's remarks, saying the Community Stage drew large crowds. Something like 200 people, he estimated, watched the local Ballet Folklorico dancers who performed first there Saturday, and a rock and roll band that afternoon also was popular.

"I bought a frozen banana and asked the vendor how long he'd been coming to the festival. He said it was his tenth visit and business was a lot better than last year," said Holmer.

"The weather was nicer," he noted. "Rotary added an extra wine tasting session on Saturday. That made for a more civilized event instead of being a drink as much as you can as fast as you can affair."

Then Pizza Plus Restaurant extended its food serving onto the sidewalk as the city had invited them to. That turned out very well and he hoped the practice could be duplicated not only at special events but on some summer evenings also.

"The only police problems I heard of was one drunk in public and an altercation over a bicycle," Holmer added.