At its recent regular meeting, the Riverbank City Council voted to continue its sponsorship and participation in the annual Cheese and Wine event after hearing a report that covered both the positive and negative aspects of its 2014 presentation in downtown Riverbank.
City Parks and Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick, under whose responsibility the event fell last year, told the council “The event overall was a success. Many people commented that the move downtown was a good decision.”
She said the carnival was a nice addition and the community seemed to enjoy the music and food.
“The cheese and wine tasting area had the best wine and cheese variety in recent memory and had 1,600 attendees. The event as a whole was well attended,” noted Fitzpatrick.
She also told the council the Cheese and Wine tasting area had some logistical challenges that must be addressed and adjustments are needed in vendor communication and layout to increase vendor satisfaction. She said beer sales were lower than expected and this will have an impact on future events.
Fitzpatrick added that city staff and Chris Ricci Presents, Inc. worked well together but noted the magnitude of the event took a great deal of staff time, even with the contract for coordination in place. Fitzpatrick expressed concern that that amount of time by the staff might interfere with other important projects, postponing them or possibly canceling them.
She pointed out that no funds were necessary from the city’s General Fund for the event. She said that, after expenses were paid, there was a profit of nearly $6,000.
When asked his opinion, Ricci, who was in the audience, said he thought it was a successful event, with lessons to be learned for next time.
The council asked him point blank if he was interested in coordinating the event in the future. When he answered in the affirmative, the council ultimately voted to continue sponsorship for two more years, with attention to the amount of staff time involved in the future.
The City of Riverbank purchased the rights to the Cheese & Wine Festival from the Riverbank Rotary Club in March, 2014 as the club was no longer able to administer the event. The agreement was that the city pay $3,000 per year for a five-year period, with the total cost of $15,000. If the city discontinues the event, no additional fees would be due. The City Council voted to contract with Chris Ricci Presents Inc. to operate the event, working closely with Parks and Recreation.