The crowds who flocked to downtown Riverbank this past weekend were greeted with sunny skies and warm temperatures, conducive to the fun they expected to have at the annual Cheese and Wine Exposition.
On Saturday, they strolled up and down the festival grounds, stopping by the many vendor booths, pausing to enjoy tunes from local musicians, or checking out the many attractions of the carnival, before lining up for the tasting sessions, this year, held in and around the Masonic Hall at Second and Santa Fe streets.
Even a classic car show was added, on Third Street, alongside the Del Rio Theatre.
Once inside the maze of fencing, the crowd was left to discover what tasting opportunities were available to them. The first thing they came across was a large tent shading Second Street, where there were a host of representatives from local vintners who poured samples for patrons. The more curious may have ventured through the open door to the Masonic Hall, where they found more wines available, as well as many kinds of cheese to taste. The even more curious among them might have gone around the building, past the alley side, to discover a host of craft beers to taste. Beer has been added recently to the tasting events.
Tasting tickets were available prior to the event, at a cost of just $20 for those 21 and over.
There were a variety of wineries that were available for guests to try like the local Gnekow Family Winery, Lodi’s Jessie’s Grove Winery and Vineyards, and Spenker Winery to name a few. The artisan cheeses came in several varieties that paired nicely with the different varietals. The craft beer area had several people tasting different types of IPA’s and dark beers from different areas like 21st Amendment Brewery and Drake’s Brewery, both out of the Bay area.
Also part of the festival were musical groups, playing in many different styles, from pop to rock to instrumental music, each tightly tucked away between buildings and in other nooks and crannies throughout the downtown area. And each seemed to be placed so as to not interfere with each other.
Vendors were available in all directions, with commercial products, information, prepared food and drink, and non-profit community groups, either helping out or presenting information on their organizations.
Carnival attractions were set up on Santa Fe, near the First Street end of the street, but this year, the rides and arcades seemed to mostly to appeal to the younger set. There was no Ferris Wheel, Zipper ride nor roller coaster, though the Bungee trampoline and the popular water ball hamster-style activities drew some teens as well as younger riders.
The events continued on Sunday as did the warm temperatures and for the first time this year there were demos and competitions at the Riverbank Skate Park from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., hosted by D.O.H.P. (Decorate Our Home Planet), an eco-friendly apparel that is made from recycled materials that are made in the USA.
Teacher and entrepreneur David Galindo from Fremont hosted the event at the skate park and brought over $500 in prizes for the skateboard contestants. He also set up a T-shirt design contest for the young kids that came out to support the skateboarders. The T-shirts will be designed and then posted on a website for people to vote on. The winner will receive some apparel.
There were several skateboarders that hit the concrete and competed in a game of “Skate” which has a similar concept to the game of “Horse.” They also did some demonstrations.
Riverbank Parks and Recreation administrator, Juanita Argumedo lined up several different events at the Fiesta Latina stage where there were performances by Ballet Folklorico Anahuac, Los Luceros, and Viva Mexico on both Saturday and Sunday. The highly anticipated and entertaining Dancing Horses also performed at the festival where Mayor Richard O’Brien sat as a judge of the dance competition. Argumedo worked hard to secure a few acts to provide a full day’s entertainment for guests to enjoy with Grupo Lumbre, Spanish singers, Mariachi singers and much more for both days.
For the second year in a row the city produced the event with help from Chris Ricci Presents. The event ran smoothly and there were no arrests made within the festival during the weekend.
“The Riverbank Police Services Command Post maintained direct communications between city staff, event organizers, firefighters, private security and law enforcement,” stated Riverbank Police Services Chief Erin Kiely. “This helped to ensure that the event’s services were provided in an efficient manner.
“The Riverbank Police Services Lobby and Records Department also remained open throughout the event in order to better serve citizens as well.”
There were deputies on horses and others that were on foot patrol around the event on both days for a total of 16 deputies working to keep attendees safe with 10 private security guards provided as well.
“Chris Ricci and Kimberly Humke ensured that there was sound oversight regarding the responsible serving of alcohol and I believe this contributed greatly to the lack of alcohol related problems at the event,” added Kiely. “The local community should be extremely proud that Riverbank has hosted yet another Cheese and Wine where the people who attended self-policed, acted responsibly and treated each other well the entire weekend.”
Founded in the late 1970s, the Cheese and Wine Exposition has been a yearly feature on the second weekend of October downtown, having been rained on only once or twice in that time. The threat of rain was nonexistent over this past weekend, with temperatures reaching the upper 80s and lower 90s.
Riverbank News reporter Virginia Still contributed to this story.