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Council Reappoints Ricci For Cheese, Wine Festival
Ricci C&W pix.jpg
Local promoter Chris Ricci discusses the recent Cheese and Wine Expo he produced, meeting with Riverbank council members on Nov. 13. He offered information on details he would change if he were to continue with the production of the event. The council announced it would be going out to bid for production of the 2019 event soon. Ric McGinnis/The News

The Riverbank City Council has reappointed the contract promotion company that produced the Cheese and Wine festival over the past five years to helm this year’s production, as well.

The move came during the Tuesday, Feb. 12 regular council meeting at city hall.

The item was presented to the council by Parks and Recreation Department Director Sue Fitzpatrick under ‘New Business’ on the agenda.

The council was asked to review the bid results for a contract for coordination of the 2019 Cheese and Wine Festival and give staff direction.

The department sent out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the 2019 Cheese and Wine Festival in December, 2018, and bids were due Jan. 2, 2019. It was sent to 10 potential event coordinators.

Fitzpatrick discussed the bids received and presented four options for the City Council to consider.

She said, “It is important for staff to receive direction so planning for the festival can begin. Once direction is received, a contract will be brought back to the City Council for approval.”

The festival is regularly held on the second weekend of October, so officials said it is time to begin preparations for this year’s event.

Explaining the background of the festival, Fitzpatrick outlined its history for the council.

She said, “The Parks and Recreation Department has overseen the Riverbank Cheese and Wine Festival for the past five years and has contracted with Chris Ricci Presents, Inc. to coordinate and promote the event. The event has been well attended, safe and financially stable.”

Fitzpatrick related that “this will be the 43rd year” the festival has been held in Riverbank. The Chamber of Commerce organized the event for the first 29 years and then Riverbank Rotary Club took it over for eight years, she added.

When the Rotary Club gave up the festival, the city took it on to continue the tradition. For the past five years, the event has been the responsibility of the city, with a contractor providing promotion and management of the event.

“The City Parks and Recreation staff took over vendor coordination the past two years and did our very best to increase the number and quality of the vendors,” Fitzpatrick explained. “Vendor numbers were down this past year, but overall, the festival was a fun event and our evaluation was that it was a success. The wine tasting ticket sales were up and many of our vendors were happy. Attendance was up and the event was safe.”

She noted that while the community enjoys the event, some people seem to want the festival to be what it was 15 or 20 years ago, when there were 300 vendors of high quality and higher attendance.

“This is a challenge,” she said, “as there are many more festivals now and vendors have more choices of which ones to attend. Last year, there were three to four other events on the same day as our festival.”

Two RFP, Requests For Proposals, were received back from the 10 sent out by officials. One bid, Fitzpatrick said, was from the previous, contracted promoter, Chris Ricci Presents, Inc. and one was from The Food Dude Catering/Zachary Fisher."

After careful review of each proposal and an interview, she said, “it is recommended that the contract be awarded to Chris Ricci Presents, Inc., as he has the most experience with this size and type of festival.”

Fitzpatrick also outlined the four options the council could consider.

Option #1 — Award the contract to Chris Ricci Presents, Inc. for $16,000.

It would be expected that less time would be required of City staff as the festival has been under this contract for the past 5five years. Staff will continue to be involved in vendor communication and placement.

Option #2 — Discontinue the Cheese and Wine Festival.

“Even though the Parks and Recreation Department did their best in conjunction with Chris Ricci Presents, Inc. to save this event, it is unlikely that it can be what it was 15-20 years ago with the number and quality of vendors and overall magnitude of the event. There are too many festivals now that occur that were not in operation back then.

“A new event could occur in downtown Riverbank that may be presented to the City Council for approval in the future. The funds in the Cheese and Wine account could be used as start up money for this new event.”

Option #3 — The City Parks and Recreation Department could run the event independently of a contract minus the Cheese and Wine component, which is the most important component of this event.

She said, “This component could be offered to interested non-profit groups as a fundraiser. This option would require additional staff time and would need to be implemented for the October 2020 Cheese and Wine event.”

Option #4 — Allow the event to occur as a non-city event.

“Anyone wanting to take over the Festival would fill out a City Wide Special event application and, if acceptable, it would be approved. The City would not be involved other than providing permits and approvals.

“An alternative would be that the event could be sold to the highest bidder.”

The council then heard from Ricci about his plans for this year and possible improvements or changes he might make.

After that, the council discussed the four options and voted unanimously to extend Ricci’s contract for this one more year, with plans to consider turning over the festival to some other organization for 2020.