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Annual Festival Rated An Awesome Event
Filling the downtown with a relaxed crowd of family and friends having a good time, the weekend's Cheese & Wine Exposition was rated a paramount success by the organizers and participants alike.

"I heard some very positive comments on how the wine tasting was arranged this year, heard the vendors had the best sales in years, received compliments on the stage entertainment - and of course the weather cooperated," said Chris Elswick of Riverbank Rotary Club that organizes the annual festival.

The main sponsors deserve some credit, she noted, citing Delta Sierra Beverages, Coca Cola, Black Oak Casino, radio stations The Hawk and Kat Country, Mocse Credit Union and City of Riverbank.

She also praised the volunteers, calling them "a great group we could not do without." They come from organizations such as Riverbank High's Future Farmers of America who put up and tear down the barricades (more than 100 of them) and tables and chairs; the Federated Woman's Club which ran the information booth, the Families First adoption agency selling soft drinks and representatives from Escalon Sunrise Rotary besides Riverbank Rotary.

One star attraction was Rotary's polio eradication exhibit, complete with "an iron lung" of the kind that kept alive people stricken by the paralyzing disease in the 1950s. Another that drew the crowds was a children's petting zoo and horse rides provided by Shane New and his partners.

"It was very uneventful," said Police Chief Bill Pooley, noting it was relatively problem-free. "A nice event. Not overcrowded. I would say there were a few less visitors than last year. But I'm just guessing. From the law enforcement point of view, we had one arrest for DUI and one for drunk in public. That was it. There was a medical call, a seizure. But no thefts reported.

"It was a family occasion. People seemed to be having a great time. An awesome event," he added.

While it draws visitors from a large area surrounding Riverbank, the Expo is very much a hometown party and local people remain loyal.

Among those on hand for the event, Ken Wey and his family said they came to the first event in 1977 and have attended every one ever since.

"Everyone seemed to be in a good mood and out to have a good time," said Interim City Manager Pam Carder, who has been attending the festival since the 1980s. "The booths had some great stuff for sale like new jewelry. It's a good thing I didn't take my credit card."

Luanne Bain, an administrative analyst at City Hall, said there typically are "a lot of commercial and a lot of food" vendors and regrets the decline of homemade arts and crafts booths in favor of more commercial wares.

"It's like the county fair coming to you and you don't have to pay extra for admission," she said.

However, she added, staff did an excellent job of cleaning up the streets so that by Monday morning when City Hall opened for business, it was difficult to tell the streets had been packed over the weekend with thousands of visitors to the festival.