Festival season is in full swing. So a few weeks ago I was approached by the organizers of the 25th Annual Fredericksburg Wine Festival, who asked me to join them and write a review of their festival. I gladly accepted and agreed to drive up and attend on October 3rd. Unfortunately, a forecast of heavy rain forced them to postpone the festival until the following week. Undeterred, I moved some things around and I was able to take part on Saturday, October 10th.
We drove up late in the morning. It was a perfect fall day with plenty of sunshine, temperatures in the mid 60s and a light breeze. Festival parking was as easy as it comes. We left our car about 100 yards from the gate. The entrance was efficient and well staffed. Checkin was seamless. Within a minute or two we had our wristbands and wine glasses.
Festival staff at the checkin table.
The festival grounds were about the size of a football field. The booths were on the outside on either side of a broad oval walkway that circled the grounds. In the center there was some seating and at the far end there was a Country and Western band. In front of the bandstand, hay bales were used as seating and a moderate crowd was gathered to drink wine and listen to the music.
Listening to music and sipping wine
The event reminded me of a carnival or street fair. In addition to the wine booths, there were a number of businesses advertising their wares and local politicians staffed stalls in hopes of swaying voters prior to the November elections. Food trucks and booths were vending typical carnival favorites, which included funnel cakes and corndogs.
Typical carnival foods on sale at one of the food booths.
I spoke with a few of the vendors and wineries in attendance. It seems that moving the date may have resulted in a drop in attendance, so I was not able to experience the festival in full force. I was also a little disappointed that some of the advertised wineries did not show. There were multiple festivals throughout the state on that same weekend, so I am certain some vendors and wineries had other commitments.
A line of vendor stalls.
I am unable to say that this festival was markedly different from the majority of others. The reduced crowds did result in a less frenzied tasting experience. This meant that it was possible to actually talk to some of the wine stewards and learn a little about what was being poured. Another bright spot was the food demonstration tent, where Chef Steven Hafner, in collaboration with Butternut & Blue Bistro and Bakery," offered “cooking with wine” presentations.
Chef Hafner in the food demo tent
All in all, it was moderately family-friendly environment. The crowd was subdued during the two hours that we were there. I did not witness any public drunkenness, which is a feature of most wine festivals. We enjoyed our visit, but the shift in dates left me unable to get a real sense of the full festival. Perhaps we will return next year and give it another go.