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Tasting, Painting, And Family Fun
There was something for everyone down food alley at the weekend Cheese and Wine Expo in Riverbank, where people could enjoy oysters, Mexican food, Hillbilly Tea, BBQ, and other treats. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS
Glam Salon in downtown Riverbank treated kids to some colorful hair during the two day Cheese and Wine Expo. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

This past weekend people from all over attended the 42nd Annual Cheese and Wine Expo that is hosted by the City of Riverbank, taking up a few blocks downtown. There is no charge to attend the festival, which included live music on different stages throughout the event, food vendors, and activities for the kids like the Waterballerz, train rides, and carnival.

“I had a great time volunteering at the expo,” said City Manager Sean Scully. “It was great to see the community having a good time on such a beautiful day.”

There were 18 deputies on duty each day during the event including a mounted unit and, according to Riverbank Police Services Chief Erin Kiely, they spent some of their time giving directions, resolving minor parking and traffic issues, taking lost property to the command post and socializing with attendees.

“From a public safety perspective things went extremely well,” added Kiely. “The crowds were the envy of any large public event because they got along very well and had virtually no problems. Not a single fight was reported to us or detected by deputies or security.”

The Riverbank Historical Society members were posted up in front of the museum with T-shirts for sale, information and a donation jar. There were sunglasses, toys, and jewelry vendors as well as wood creations, timeless real estate, and Jay Cee Lane Boutique with clothes and shoes.

“The turnout was great, better than last year,” stated Sue Fitzpatrick, Parks and Recreation Director. “Sunday was probably a larger crowd but both days were well attended. Without a gate fee it is difficult to estimate but I would say 4,000 if I had to guess. The cheese and wine (tasting) ickets did very well. We had over 1,000 attend each day.”

Guests lined up prior to the 1 p.m. tasting session on both Saturday and Sunday. Once through the ID check, tasters would get a wrist band and a wine glass to partake in the tasting of wine, sangria, sparkling wine, hard cider and craft beers.

“Kimberly Ricci, who manages the alcohol service at the event, does a fantastic job of making sure that it’s done responsibly and with good judgment,” stated Kiely. “The last few years she’s been involved have really helped to make for an optimal crowd dynamic at the event. Everyone seems to have fun, without overdoing it to the point where people no longer get along and law enforcement then needs to get involved.”

Inside the Antigua there were wine booths and food and outside was a tent with more wineries and cheese options. Towards the back of the venue there was a row of tables and chairs and past that was a tent with a variety of craft beers.

“I think all the stages were enjoyed by the community and there was a variety of music throughout the day,” expressed Fitzpatrick. “The stage at Topeka and Third was popular as I saw a lot of people sitting, eating and enjoying the music. The youth stage had some great talent as well. The Hispanic area had some great entertainment throughout both days and the community seemed to be having a great time.”

There were some local bands and youth groups that entertained the crowds as well as a DJ in the Plaza del Rio.

“I did walk the entire festival and got a chance to see everyone having a good time,” added Scully. “I personally liked the variety in different music acts that were stationed around the festival.”

New this year was an outdoor French wine café that had tables with white tablecloths and chairs set up for guests to sit and relax right on the corner of Santa Fe and Third streets. There was a bar and bartender that offered guests a few whites and reds for purchase.

“The French Café was new and people enjoyed sitting and having a glass of wine while watching people walk by,” added Fitzpatrick. “The sip and paint sold out on both days at the 4 p.m. session and was a nice addition.”

The annual festival has taken on changes over the years including the area in which it encompasses as well as the location of the wine tasting, which also includes craft beer but the one thing that is consistent is that there is always fun for everyone.

“The one thing we would like the community to remember is that the Cheese and Wine Festival is a “Festival” and not a craft fair,” stated Fitzpatrick. “Even though we want and will strive for more unique vendors that are of a variety that people will enjoy, the event is intended to be a Festival with food, entertainment, carnival, vendors and the main attraction being the Wine and Cheese Tasting.”