Fall is around the corner which means the 39th Annual Cheese and Wine Festival in downtown Riverbank will soon be upon us. Plans and preparations have been under way to execute and improve the festival, which will be held on Saturday, Oct. 10 and Sunday, Oct. 11, from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. both days.
In March 2014 the City of Riverbank purchased the rights to the festival from the Riverbank Rotary Club so this will be the second year that the City of Riverbank will host the event along with the assistance of coordinator, Chris Ricci. At a recent city council meeting, Ricci gave the council along with members of the community an update on the progress of the 2015 Cheese and Wine Festival.
2014 was a learning experience for city staff and Ricci as they offered changes like specific cheese tasting sessions with cheese experts and the addition of some craft beers along with changing the location of the event and tasting.
“We learned a heck of a lot from this event,” said Ricci. “Last year we changed the focus of the event from a residential focus in terms of the geography of the event to more of a downtown focus.
“To putting most of the event right here in your downtown core where you guys invested a lot of redevelopment money to make a real beautiful downtown and make that a center piece of your community.”
In regards to the finances, the 2014 event stayed within the budget and was profitable, however there were areas that needed improvement like the wine and cheese tasting area.
Last year the line management at the tasting was questionable which had people waiting in long lines for approximately 45 minutes before entering the tasting area. The cheese tasting area had long lines as well which were due to people taking too much time interacting with the different cheese experts, according to Ricci.
“We ended up leaving the tasting area open for an extra hour to try to please people but they were still a little bit upset because it was hot,” stated Ricci. “Finally the heat was an issue even though we prepared for it, we got tents, we got large swamp coolers, and it was still just a little uncomfortable.”
There is a new line management strategy that they will use this year which they tested on Sunday at last year’s event that had people only waiting about 15 minutes to enter the tasting area.
The plan this year is to not have a separate cheese tasting area but pair the cheese with the different wines so they will be served together.
The Masonic Hall will be the new location for the wine tasting, which will include indoor and outdoor tasting in the front of the building as well as the parking lot for guests to enjoy.
“So that we have the extra capacity that we need and so we are not boxed in but also people can go into the air conditioning if they are uncomfortable,” added Ricci.
Chris Ricci Presents has a goal of selling $10,000 in sponsorship along with the City of Riverbank which has the same goal and outside sales representatives have a goal of $3,000 which is similar to last year.
“Current sponsorship sales are $13,000 that has been committed,” stated Ricci. “I think we have $3,000 in hand so far that is in terms of where we were last year. That is almost double in the terms of revenue committed compared to last year. Our goal is stay within the same budget as last year and thus far we have managed to do that.
“We are going to continue our successful partnership with Tresetti’s World Café to do the Wine and Cheese tasting.”
The lead sponsor of the event is DBI Beverages, which will also be handling the craft beer tasting area.
“Vendors returned with positive feedback and are signing up faster this year than they did last year,” said Ricci.
The Riverbank Chamber of Commerce will assist with event merchandising and selling the glasses.
The same marketing firm will be used again this year; Pacific Media Group whom Ricci expressed did a really great job of marketing the event last year.
There will be a 2015 Cheese and Wine glass design contest this year where local artists can compete on the design that will be promoted via social media.
The firehouse may be open for guests this year along with a tour of the fire engines as long as the firefighters are available.
“We have been having weekly meetings with the Parks and Rec organizing the event and we have also been meeting with Finance to make sure all the money is goes where it is supposed to go,” added Ricci. “One of the things that we are very committed to is the Kids area and we have got a contract from a carnival to come in and do the Cheese and Wine so we are real excited about that.
“We are also going to continue to work with the people with the inflatable slide, the bounce houses, and all that fun stuff.”
During the event there may be a skateboarding demonstration at the Riverbank Skate Park which is close to the event area.
“Entertainment was successful and our assumption that a children’s stage and a Hispanic heritage stage were positive and good and people really enjoyed them,” said Ricci.
The event boundaries are almost the same with the exception of the Fourth Street and Santa Fe Street intersection for “Fiesta Latina” which will include dancing horses and Spanish language music and arts. First Street will be closed due to the request of the Riverbank Police Services to increase overall safety.
“I want to thank you guys so much for the opportunity to work with you … your city, your community, and your team at the city to produce this event again,” stated Ricci.
“From my perspective the plans are coming along nicely,” stated Parks and Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick. “We are trying a new location for the wine tasting which will be at the Masonic Lodge that we hope will work out well.
“This is only our second year so we are still experimenting with a few things but we are excited about the event.”