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New Contractor Selected To Oversee Cheese, Wine
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The Riverbank Cheese and Wine Festival made a few changes last year including bringing the wine tasting back to the Community Center. For 2023, the city will partner with SMA Entertainment to put on the event in October. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

The City of Riverbank is going to continue hosting the Cheese and Wine Festival this year on Saturday, Oct. 14 and Sunday, Oct. 15 … but they have also contracted with SMA Entertainment to oversee the festival this year.

“So, we are off and running with SMA (Stephen and Michelle Alexander) Entertainment,” said Director of Parks and Recreation Sue Fitzpatrick. “They are very excited. The reason we chose this group is they have a great deal of experience and are extremely excited. They have wanted the festival for the past three years. Steven Alexander promises a great event. More to come as we get further in the planning.”

At the City Council meeting last week, the council approved the consent calendar which had a resolution authorizing a performance agreement between the city of Riverbank and SMA Entertainment for the coordination for the 2023 Cheese and Wine Festival. The agreement for services is $13,500 with an incentive of a 50/50 split of revenue after all the expenses are paid.

The Cheese and Wine boundary map is going to be similar to the way it was last year, starting from Third Street to Sixth Street extending to the Community Center which will be fenced in this year.

SMA has been in business for 11 years and they have administered a number of festivals through the years including the Tequila Fest, Jazz Fest, and Apple Festival in Stockton.

Fitzpatrick gave a report on the past festivals and requested direction from the City Council on how to proceed for 2023 at a council meeting in February. She explained some of the festival challenges and gave the council a few options on businesses to contract with this year, including SMA Entertainment, Copper Rhino, LLC, and Lively Libations Event Services.

“I’ve overseen it (festival) for the past eight years; I know there are a lot of challenges,” stated Fitzpatrick during the presentation about the Cheese and Wine festival options last month. “It is a difficult festival because there are so many components and if your revenue sources aren’t there, there’s no way we’re going to meet the expenses.”

They have administered the festival for the past eight years and contracted with other organizations to execute it. They originally purchased the festival from the Rotary Club for $15,000 and were able to make enough money to roll over into the next year.

Fitzpatrick noted some of the festival challenges and a few reasons why the city did not do well financially last year, including inflation, decline in sponsorships, and poor marketing. The festival had a $22,135 deficit last year and Fitzpatrick requested council to transfer that amount from the general fund into the Cheese and Wine account. The council approved the transfer by a vote of 5 to 0. The city contracted with Simply Divine Events, LLC for the past two years and they will not be doing so this year, necessitating the selection of a new firm with which to work.

Fitzpatrick explained that they have operated the event without using funds from the general fund for the past seven years. Their goal is to adjust the festival as needed so that it can be self-sustaining.

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The traditional tasting sessions at the Riverbank Community Center include several varieties of both cheese and wine, during the city’s Cheese and Wine fest, which is on the schedule for Oct. 14 and 15 this year. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS