Earlier this year, the Riverbank City Council agreed to take over the administration of the Cheese and Wine Festival from the Riverbank Rotary Club, who ran the event for several years. The annual festival will continue on the second weekend in October, Oct. 11 and 12 in downtown Riverbank with a new theme this year titled, “Riverbank Cheese, Wine, and Craft Beer Exposition 2014.”
When the council accepted the role of overseeing the fest, City Manager Jill Anderson said they also realized they couldn’t do it alone.
“As a result of that effort we recognized that we would need assistance and therefore hired Chris Ricci to be our event coordinator,” Anderson said. “Chris has been working with Sue Fitzpatrick to proceed with the planning.”
Ricci recently presented the city council and the public with an update on the event and the progress that has been made in putting together the 2014 festival.
“It is a real honor and a pleasure to be trusted with a 39-year-old community institution like the Riverbank Cheese and Wine,” said Ricci. “This is a three-phase plan; we are going to do a phase one planning, then we do development and then we do the actual event execution.”
Ricci and staff began the event planning process with budgeting and in order to get an idea of what they would be looking at they met with the Rotary Club. Together both parties researched the books, the expenses, marketing, and entertainment to formulate the budget for this year’s event.
In the presentation, Ricci explained that Phase 1 is the planning stage and includes budgeting, investing in cheese and wine tasting, maintaining previous years expense levels, community involvement, and having three meetings with non-profit organizations to discuss their involvement in the event.
“We want to break down the scope of the festival. We want to get the community involved, and obviously we want to work with the (city) government to make it as successful as possible,” said Ricci. “One of the main things we looked at when we started doing the budgeting was investing in the Cheese and Wine experience.
“We want to try to bring our Cheese and Wine festival up to a slightly higher level this year.”
Maintaining previous year’s expense levels was an important goal that the city’s Parks and Recreation department expressed to Ricci. Making a profit on the event would be preferred, however, if they break even and not lose money that would be acceptable.
The three non-profit groups that were contacted by Ricci were the Women’s Club of the Central Valley Arts Association, Central Valley Community Resources, and the Rotary Club.
“We have developed opportunities for the non-profits to make money,” stated Ricci. “Some of these opportunities include soda serving, beverage service, ticket sales, and merchandise sales.”
Meeting with Riverbank Police Services Chief, Erin Kiely, Ricci was able to discuss the event, boundaries, rules, ideas and the vision of the festival.
Ricci has proposed a different set up of the event in downtown Riverbank to include more of the business district as opposed to the residential area.
They have discussed hiring an experienced Vendor coordinator that could assist the vendors with paperwork, collect the fees, and licensing.
“Packets were mailed to all the Riverbank vendors from previous years,” said Ricci. “The exciting thing is that we are also sending out packets to a lot of vendors we didn’t have access to last year.
“We worked with the City of Riverbank Finance to create a safe way for vendors to accept credit cards that was a really important thing with all the fraud going on.”
Phase II of the process is development which includes sponsorship sales, updating the budget, marketing, vendor sales, and developing the kids area.
“We designed sponsorship material,” said Ricci. “Sponsorships are critical to the success of any festival. We have event insurance and we met with local business owners. We also studied the previous Cheese and Wine Tasting experience and then started making recommendations on how we should do it this year.”
The goal Ricci’s company has set forth in sponsorship sales matches what the Rotary did last year of $20,000. The City of Riverbank will raise $10,000 in sponsorship and Ricci’s group will sell $10,000 in sponsorships for this year’s event.
“I am pretty comfortable that we are going to hit that,” stated Ricci. “We are doing well.”
Tresetti’s World Café has partnered with the city for the event and will be hosting the tasting area. According to Ricci, Tresetti’s has had a wine shop for 20 years and a lot of experience in administering wine tastings.
“We are in the process of interviewing cheese specialists,” added Ricci. “One of the kind of new attractions at one of these events is artisan cheeses, there is family owned farms out there that are developing these artisan cheeses and they are delicious and that’s what people want to taste at cheese tastings now.”
Neither the cheese tasting nor the cheese specialist has been finalized; however, they have a few different people they are considering.
Cencal Beverages will be a sponsor at the event and will host a craft brew and tasting area.
“I don’t know how many people are familiar with craft brews but they’re kind of the hottest new sector in the beer market right now and you see a lot of new restaurants coming out and they are kind of focusing their franchise on craft beers and then building their food around it,” expressed Ricci. “We want to take advantage of that trend and kind of get some of that energy coming in and add craft beer to our tasting, wine tasting, and our cheese tasting.”
Valley Arts will possibly have their art show in the downtown courtyard outside.
Pacific Media Group was hired to handle the event marketing.
“Pacific Media Group has been marketing events in the Central Valley for 30 years, concerts, special events, they have done very well for me,” stated Ricci.
For the kids area Ricci has partnered with Christ the King Church and they will add their carnival to the festival with no additional cost to either party.
“This is one of the things that I am most excited about for this year,” expressed Ricci. “So we are going to get this incredible carnival.”
She is also working with a company that plans to have the traditional activities like bounce houses and slides to add to the fun.
“Vendors are coming in and things are looking good,” stated Sue Fitzpatrick, Parks and Recreation Director.