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Tastes Of Change At Cheese And Wine
CW 6
The line was quite long at the cheese tasting tent, which was filled with a variety of cheeses like Mediterranean Gouda, Gorgonzola Mount Ainclin, Habanero Cheddar, and many more. - photo by VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

Visitors by the thousands spent some time exploring downtown Riverbank this past weekend, in town for the annual Cheese and Wine Exposition hosted by the City of Riverbank.

The City of Riverbank continued the annual event that has been a tradition in Riverbank since 1977 after the Riverbank Rotary Club expressed that they no longer had resources to continue sponsoring the event.

Chris Ricci Presents Inc. was brought on board by the city to organize, promote and run this year’s expo. Ricci presented some changes to the event, adding craft beer to the tasting festivities as well as changing the area which the event would encompass.

The event no longer went down Santa Fe Street to Seventh Street; this year the expo stayed closer to downtown between Fourth Street, Stanislaus Street, First Street, and Third Street. There was also a fence and gates to enter through, new to the event this year.

There was a carnival set up between First and Second Street on Santa Fe as well as a kid’s area at the other end of the street.

There were several rides to choose from like the Ferris wheel, Starship 2000, the Orbiter, to name a few as well as some carnival games to try and win prizes. Vendors lined up on Third Street with a variety of food from kettle corn, Mexican food, corn dogs, garlic fries, grilled teriyaki kabobs, Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches hot dogs, nachos, hot links, hamburgers and much more.

The Riverbank Rotary Club was on the scene offering tri tip sandwiches, chips, and whole tri tips, to take home for dinner later.

Lockeford Sausage on a roll had two stations set up at the event and each booth had a long line of people. Cobblestone Bakery had two booths set up with baked goods for sale.

“The vendors were happy and the merchants were happy,” said Mayor Richard O’Brien. “I thought it was very well organized.

“It was well laid out and people thought it was great.”

A train, Engine No 23, took guests throughout the festival covering all areas for those that preferred a ride than to walk on a warm day. There were stages set up throughout the event that had live music playing to entertain guests. O’Brien expressed really enjoying the kids stage that had music played by students in elementary, middle school, and high school.

“One of the other things that I really enjoyed was the dancing horses and the mariachi’s, it was phenomenal,” stated O’Brien. “The show was for a good 45 minutes.”

The museum had its antique red fire engine on hand for guests to sit in and check out.

The wine, cheese and craft beer tasting was moved to Third and Stanislaus streets this year where tents were set up. The line for the tasting event was long as well as the lines inside for the cheese tasting, wine, and beer. People were packed in the area that seemed to be a bit too small for some tasting participants.

O’Brien expressed that this is a learning experience and next he would like to see the tasting moved to the center of downtown in the circle next to the Del Rio Plaza.

There were several wineries on hand including Bronco, Cupcake, Campus Oaks, Barefoot, and many more.

The cheese tasting tent was filled with people as well as a variety of cheeses.

There were several people in attendance on both days with an estimated 30,000 between both Saturday and Sunday.

“Overall we are happy with the event and feel it was a success,” said Sue Fitzpatrick, Director of Parks and Recreation. “We saw many people having a great time enjoying the music, food and vendors.

“We heard a lot of positive comments from those we spoke with.”

According to Riverbank Police Services Chief Erin Kiely, the only issues that there were at the event were parking and traffic-related issues, which resulted in some vehicles being towed and motorists that were cited for violations.

There were also a few medical aid calls and an event goer that entered the scene already intoxicated and went into a restaurant to try to sleep.

Deputies allowed his family members to take him home.

“The event was the most peaceful Cheese and Wine that I have ever worked,” said Kiely. “Riverbank Police Services did not have to address a single physical fight or verbal argument at the event.”

There were mixed emotions about the location of the tasting event and the set up but overall the people expressed having a really good time.

“My favorite part was the general atmosphere of families having fun enjoying the downtown,” stated Fitzpatrick. “The music food and vendors were great.

“My family really enjoyed it.”