Corks were popped and craft beers were on tap at the 40th Annual Cheese & Wine (and Craft Beer) Expo this past weekend in downtown Riverbank. The City of Riverbank hosted this event for the third year in a row, with the assistance of Chris Ricci Presents.
Several thousand people made their way to the two-day event, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 8 and 9, which included live music, vendors, food, a variety of cheeses and, of course, tasty beverages.
New this year to the event was an Oktoberfest area which had a slow start on Saturday that eventually had people attending the festivities during the late afternoon. On Sunday the area did not have very much activity. The cover charge was $5 to get in but was included in the price of the wine and craft beer tasting ticket. The beer inside the Oktoberfest tent was available for purchase which those that had already paid the $5 entrance fee did not like very much. There were several people in the wine and beer tasting tent that had not heard about the Oktoberfest area and did not know that their tasting ticket allowed them into that area for free.
“The music was good though and the area was set up nice with decorations and benches,” stated Sue Fitzpatrick, Director of Parks and Recreation. “The Cheese Zone did pretty well as far as sales. People were looking for more cheese and that needs to be addressed but this concept was a good start.”
The Cheese Zone offered cheese curds and deep fried cheesecake.
The wine tasting tickets have been known to sell out and people requested there be tickets available at the door during both days of the events.
There were people from all over that attended the tasting event like Ceres, Turlock, Oakdale, Modesto, and Riverbank, to name a few. With several returning guests to the festival they expressed that they would like to see the tasting go back to the community center which seemed to have much more room.
“Wine tasting tickets were available at the door this year but we probably had the same number of people attend as last year,” added Fitzpatrick. “The line moved quickly and I did not hear any complaints on that. When I walked through the wine tasting area everyone seemed to be having a great time and it was well attended.”
There were several different wines to try outside and inside the Masonic Lodge, along with a very popular Blanc de Bleu.
There was a kids’ area with rides, games, and a petting zoo and over 100 vendors set up shop in the festival area for the weekend.
Between both days the festival is estimated to have brought approximately 10,000 guests to downtown Riverbank.
The Hispanic Heritage stage organized by Parks and Recreation staffer Juanita Argumedo brought a variety of entertainment to the event including Zumba to promote good health, Cali Dynamic Dance Crew that energized the crowd with a couple of performances, live music and the very popular dancing horses on both days of the event.
On Sunday there was also a skateboard demonstration and competition held at the skate park which included giveaways. There were about 60 people that attended this event.
“Well, this is the city’s third year and I feel overall the event was successful and the community enjoyed having the Festival continue in Riverbank,” stated Fitzpatrick. “I personally enjoyed the event but I know it could be even better.
“Our Parks and Recreation staff is listening to the vendors, the community and all input to help us evaluate and give the City Council the information to make the decisions on the future of the Festival.”