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City Takes Control Of Cheese And Wine
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The biggest event in Riverbank will happen six months from now and the City of Riverbank is moving forward with the plans for the 38th Annual Cheese and Wine Exposition. The vote at a recent city council meeting for the city to take the reins of the fest, however, was not unanimous.

Councilmember Darlene Barber-Martinez made a motion to proceed with Proposal #1, which Councilmember Jeanine Tucker made a second followed by Vice Mayor Cal Campbell, and Mayor Richard O’Brien agreeing. However, a ‘No’ vote was cast by Councilmember, Leanne Jones Cruz.

Over the last six weeks the City of Riverbank and the Riverbank Rotary Club have been in negotiations regarding the annual Cheese and Wine Exposition. Director of Parks and Recreation, Sue Fitzpatrick led the negotiations and presented an overview of the process to the city council and the public.

“I would just like to compliment the Rotary for not only the work that they’ve done on the Cheese and Wine Festival but throughout Riverbank,” said Jill Anderson, City Manager. “They give so much and we just appreciate their efforts through this and while we are in negotiations and going forward it is a pleasure to acknowledge their good work that they do on behalf of the city.”

Fitzpatrick had a presentation to share with the council and members of the public. The negotiations with the Rotary entailed the purchase and signing over the rights of the festival.

The council agreed to assume the Cheese and Wine festival from the Rotary Club with the understanding that an event coordinator would need to be hired.

An RFP (request for proposal) was drawn for an Event Coordinator and publicized. The candidates for the position have been interviewed.

In the presentation, Fitzpatrick had a slide that showed factors for consideration of continuing the fest but with city backing such as, since 2006 the Rotary Club has succeeded in providing a popular, safe and enjoyable event, times have changed, it is more difficult for festivals to draw the crowds, vendor numbers are down, and event attendance is also down.

“We found that at the peak (of the festival) the vendor numbers were around 250, they have decreased to around 150 vendors, which is concerning,” said Fitzpatrick. “The way we kind of determined that (low attendance) is from what we were hearing and also it used to be very difficult to find a parking place when you came down on the Cheese and Wine day and now it’s not quite as difficult so that shows that there’s not as many people here.”

The finances that were supplied by the Rotary Club of the past three years were studied by Marisela Garcia, Director of Finance for the City of Riverbank and Fitzpatrick. The Rotary Club hosted the event for the past eight years and in three out of those eight they lost money. Recent years of their financial statements show a profit, though, including $11,147 in 2011 and $15,716 in 2013.

The following items are revenue sources that were looked at by Garcia and Fitzpatrick for the event: vendors, which are the main revenue generator; beer concessions comes in second; wine and cheese tasting third; Coca Cola, the Kids Zone, are the least amount, and Sponsorships, which also bring in funds and are a good thing, officials said, but not guaranteed.

Fitzpatrick explained that there were a few proposals drawn up from the Rotary Club for the council to consider and possibly decide on.

Proposal #1:

The City receives all event rights and limited property

$15,000 (change from $20,000) buyout over the course of (5) years

First $3,000 installment paid prior to the festival and the (4) remaining installments annually thereafter – installments continue only if the festival continues – if event rights are sold, the balance is paid.

Proposal #2:

The Rotary Club would sign over rights to the city for a 20 percent share of profits

The RC would work with the City on planning and dedicate some hours to the event in predominantly an advisory capacity.

Booth Proposal:

The Rotary Club requests that the city include in the agreement the approval of the Rotary Club to have their Iron Lung/Polio fundraising booth on the festival street at no cost for three to five years.

“And that’s not an issue at all for us,” stated Fitzpatrick. “I don’t know how council would feel but for us that wouldn’t be a problem.”

After the discussions between all parties, the council and considering public comments, the council members decided to move forward with the event, via Proposal 1, and assumed the responsibility with financial and operational risks with a 4 to 1 vote.

The annual Cheese and Wine Exposition is traditionally hosted the second weekend in October.