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Cheese And Wine Event Under New Leadership
The Riverbank Cheese and Wine has a new coordinator for 2020 that was approved by City Council members last week. The ladies shown here were enjoying a little cheese and wine at the event last year. Virginia Still/The News

Recent action by the Riverbank City Council saw its members accept the proposal submitted by SS Consulting for coordination of the 2020 Riverbank Cheese and Wine Festival. The agreement came at the regular council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 28. The festival has been an annual event in downtown Riverbank for over 40 years and for the past six years the city contracted with Chris Ricci Presents to oversee the event. Now, that firm will no longer be a part of it.

“We are very excited to present to you an opportunity to change up the wine and cheese festival a little bit,” stated City Manager Sean Scully prior to the presentation. “So we took council’s direction at the meeting a couple months ago and Sue went out and spoke with a number of different festival professionals and promoters and interviewed and saw presentations from a number of them. We are very pleased that Sue’s top choice was interested in the event.”

It was in November of last year at a city council meeting that Parks and Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick was directed to find a possible Recreation Coordinator to handle this year’s event along with another company for assistance in putting on the annual festival. Fitzpatrick advised the council and public at the council meeting regarding that process and the outcome.

Fitzpatrick advised that after spending a couple of months researching and evaluating the possibility of a recreation coordinator, it was determined that there was not enough time to find the right person for the job with an event of that magnitude this year. So after reviewing several companies to come in and take over planning and implementing the Cheese and Wine, their top choice was SS Consulting.

In the presentation she added that they are a mother-daughter team that has a lot of experience including working with the Almond Blossom Festival, the Ripon Hot Air Balloon Festival, One World Cultural Festival as well as concerts and parades.

Their proposal is for $20,000 or 15 percent of gross revenue, whichever is greater, which Fitzpatrick said is less than what the city has paid in the past. Subcontracting with Chris Ricci Presents cost the city over $22,000 and city staff was doing the work of recruiting the vendors for the festival. The new company will be responsible for both the main festival and the cheese and wine portion of the event.

“This new company has a good understanding of the challenges and potential of the festival,” stated Fitzpatrick.

City council member Cindy Fosi commented that she is very excited about SS Consulting and is anxious to work with them. City staff will still be involved overseeing and supporting them but in less capacity than they have been in the past six years.

The details need to be worked out as of yet but this is the first step in a new direction for the Cheese and Wine Festival. Some specifics will continue like non-profits, beer booths, and Scully expressed that they plan to work with downtown businesses as well as there has been complaints from downtown businesses regarding the festival in years past.

The proposal was approved in a vote of 5 to 0 to bring SS Consulting on board. Additionally, contract negotiations with the firm will be brought back to the council for review and approval at a future meeting.