For the past 43 years the City of Action has been hosting the Cheese and Wine Exposition in downtown Riverbank. Another year is in the books and discussions about next year’s event will already be on the table for many of the staff members at the city. Along with heightened security precautions, which were new this year, the revamped carnival area had only a few attractions but the row of food vendors and live entertainment was a constant during the festival as it has been in years past.
The streets of Riverbank this past Saturday and Sunday were bustling with people stopping by craft vendors and other booths as well as grabbing a bite to eat. The weather cooperated this year with mild temperatures. The wine and craft beer tasting started out with long lines on both days.
“To me, it felt crowded throughout the whole weekend,” stated Parks and Recreation Supervisor Julia Petit. “Ticket sales (for tasting events) were strong, and many people came for tickets on the day of. I felt that there were more people at the event this year than last year, especially on Sunday.”
The wine and cheese tasting were in the Antigua as well as some varieties outside. The craft beer was in the back where there was live entertainment.
“The schools being involved was a big highlight for me – the California Avenue PTA did such a great job running the dunk tank,” added Petit. “I witnessed quite a few teachers get dunked. The RHS High School band killed it with the cotton candy and so many students got involved in the fundraiser.”
She said that there were 25 more vendors than last year and that the bouncing bins area in lieu of the carnival had a mechanical bull, rock wall, mini train and blow up obstacle course and gave California Avenue Elementary PTA a deal for the dunk tank.
The Hispanic Heritage Stage was once again on Fourth and Santa Fe streets that was filled with entertainment both days including the popular dancing horses, bands, a dance competition, and cultural dancers that was coordinated once again by Parks and Recreation administrator Juanita Argumedo. New this year was also a large electronic robot that made its way through the crowds lit up during the evening. There was also a main stage on Topeka, the youth stage on Stanislaus, a DJ in the Plaza, and live music in the wine tasting area.
“I work with the vendors quite a bit,” expressed Petit. “They were very pleased with the security at the event. They said that they felt safe, and that was really important to us, so I was happy to hear that. Many also asked how to sign up for next year, so it’s always good to hear that they want to join us again.”
Previously at the event there were multiple access points to enter the grounds and there were no bag checks or security wands as people entered. This year due to the shootings that occurred at the Gilroy Garlic Festival the security protocols were heightened. There were only a couple access points into the festival and they were manned by security and/or law enforcement. With approximately 30 deputies and 20 private security guards that worked the event they kept everyone safe. There were even a few deputies that were on buildings overlooking the event and keeping their eye out for any disturbances.
“We didn’t have a single fight reported by the public or observed by deputies or private security,” stated Riverbank Police Services Chief Erin Kiely. “We had several lost items brought in to lost and found by good Samaritans, including a wallet with hundreds of dollars in it. The items were returned to owners. Event crowds just don’t get any better than the ones we had at this year’s Cheese and Wine.”
During the festival on Saturday there were two public intoxication arrests and private security made one eviction for violating event rules. On Sunday the chief added that there was one arrest made of a man that had multiple warrants and that was all.
Petit shared that the event is a lot of work and is a huge team effort with staff putting in long hours all weekend long to make sure everything ran smoothly.
“Although some mild inconveniences (metal detector wanding at the entrances, limited points of entry/exit, etc.) were created I think that the security provided was effective and generally well received by the attending public,” said Kiely. “RPS appreciates that we could serve our community by greatly increasing security measures, yet people were still friendly, positive and having a great time throughout the event.”