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Cheese And Wine Exposition Crowd Tries To Beat The Heat
cheese and wine
Towering over the eaters, this massive cotton candy probably could have fed a crowd but the youngsters enjoying it were happy to eat as much as they could during the weekend Cheese and Wine event in Riverbank. - photo by Sarah Lawson

The 45th annual Riverbank Cheese and Wine Festival was spread out through downtown Riverbank and the wine tasting returned to the city’s Community Center this past weekend. The City of Riverbank contracted with Simply Divine Events once again for this year’s festival.

According to Tamra Spade with Simply Divine Events, it was a great weekend overall and there were a lot of people in attendance on both days.

She said, “There were a lot of people. I think there was more people this year than the past few years. It was wonderful to see so many vendors and people, the festival is growing. The heat played a role, but overall, it was a success. I hope each year it grows and continues to get better.”

The weather was unseasonably warm over the weekend which may have affected the attendance. However, there were several people that hit downtown Riverbank with their kids and pets, strolling through the assortment of over 100 vendors and festivities.

“We had a few challenges,” remarked Spade. “Mostly needing more volunteers and people to work. As we grow and expand the festival, we need more help. The nice thing, we had quite a few people tell us they want to help next year.”

There was private security and Riverbank Police Services deputies were present at the festival on foot, on bicycles, and patrolling on horseback to ensure public safety.

“All in all, we had a wonderful and safe Cheese and Wine,” expressed RPS Chief Ed Ridenour. “The weather was great, and the event appeared well attended. There were numerous families enjoying the festival and downtown was full of new businesses. It is wonderful to see Riverbank’s downtown expanding and drawing visitors. Riverbank is a remarkable community that I am very happy to have the honor to work in.”

There were two stages that kept the crowd entertained with live bands as well as a couple DJs in different areas. The layout of the festival was expanded this year from Third Street to Seventh Street.

The kids’ zone had bounce houses, rides and games. The car show returned and had a new location on Santa Fe Street in front of the Community Center and park with about 50 cars.

Spade shared that she had several requests to move the festival down Santa Fe Street towards the park and to have the wine tasting return to the Community Center.

There were two-hour sessions for the wine tasting this year with offerings from seven different wineries with an array of varietals including Jessie’s Grove, Berghold Vineyards, Barefoot, and Pruett Farms. Throughout the wine tasting there were tables with an assortment of cheeses, some crackers, and olives. There were tables with chairs for guests to have a snack, a sip and a sit. There was also some chips and cheese sauce for guests to enjoy perhaps with a beer tasting from three different breweries that was held outside in the back parking lot.

“We received a lot of compliments on the wine tasting area this year,” added Spade. “We had food pairings, Allison’s peanut brittle and olive oil tasting. Keeping it fun, we had DJ D playing everyone’s favorite music. We were told that people loved it.”

With the warm temperatures there were some guests hoping for a cool Community Center, but it took some time before they turned on the air on Saturday. There were also a few guests looking for bottled water but were offered some tap water out of the sink or water fountain during the tasting session. There were several guests thrilled that the wine tasting returned to the Community Center and were delighted to find tables and chairs to sit at.

Although Saturday was busier than Sunday, they sold approximately 1000 wine tasting tickets over the weekend, according to Spade.

“I will say that the Ballet Folklorico and Dancing Horses were two of the highlights along with the large number of vendors,” stated Parks and Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick. “There is a lot of behind-the-scenes type of things that occur prior to and after the event that we really want to improve on next year. We know we still need to work on making the wine tasting area better and we have some ideas for that next year. With that being said I did see many families enjoying themselves and that makes the challenges worth it.”

Sunday was a celebration of Hispanic Culture with Ballet Folklorico performances, mariachis, and the ever so popular dancing horses. There were 22 horses in the competition this year compared to only six last year. Councilmembers Luis Uribe and Darlene Barber-Martinez along with Mayor Richard O’Brien were judges in the dancing horse competition.

“I think the festival was very well attended, the layout was much longer so attendees were spread out over a larger area,” expressed Uribe. “We had very few incidents and I was glad to see our police department’s presence throughout the entire festival. I would definitely like to see more shade structures over the kid’s play area and thought the idea of bringing it back to the Community Center was a great idea. I look forward to always taking residents’ feedback and continuing to improve the festival.”

cheese and wine
Jessie’s Grove Winery had a few different varietals on hand for guests to try, lining up in the Riverbank Community Center for this year’s Wine Tasting sessions as part of the Cheese and Wine Exposition. - photo by VIRGINIA STILL
cheese and wine
Food and fun were the orders of the day during the weekend’s Cheese and Wine Festival in downtown Riverbank. Everything from different kinds of fair food to toys and other prizes and products were available to the many families and other patrons who came town to have fun. - photo by Ric McGinnis