Record crowd projected for festival
Annual wine, beer and food tasting event opens Thursday in convention center.
The Convention and Arena Authority and Showspan Inc. are projecting that more than 14,000 people will attend their Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer and Food Festival at DeVos Place this Thursday through Saturday. If so, the crowd would establish a new attendance record in the annual event’s fifth year and top the previous mark of 12,000 recorded last year.
Those who attend this week will find a few new wrinkles.
First, hand-crafted hard cider has been added to the expansive menu of wine, food and beer. Cider samples will be available from two local producers, Cascade Winery and Robinette Cellars, and from six others, including Boston Beer Co., known for its Samuel Adams beer, and Samuel Smith, a small, independent British brewery in Yorkshire.
Second, attendees can register to win prizes this year. The event will give away touring excursions to three different locations: Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay; Secrets “The Vine” in Cancun; and Napa, Calif. In addition, Siegel Jewelers will give away a diamond each day of the three-day festival.
Third, Saturday’s hours have been extended to 10 p.m. This is the first year Saturday’s hours match the closing times of Thursday and Friday.
Last year’s event turned a profit of $33,656, its largest margin and one the CAA and Showspan split. Revenue from the 2011 festival totaled $283,777, while expenses were $250,121.
The projection for this week’s event pegs the profit at $50,200 based on total revenue of $292,500 and expenses of $242,300. If the projection holds true, the event’s margin will rise by 49 percent from last year.
More than 100 wineries will offer samples of 1,200 wines inside the Steelcase Ballroom at DeVos Place. Brewmasters and distillers will provide tastes of their craft beverages. Chefs from some of the area’s top restaurants will prepare and serve small plates of their specialties. And, once again, special pairings of restaurants and wineries will offer multi-course gourmet meals on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets for the pairings range from $30 to $40.
The event also will offer daily wine, beer, spirits and food seminars, along with food workshops. Riverfront Marketplace will be open once again, where attendees can purchase homemade goods to take home.
As part of the festival, Experience Grand Rapids and Kent County Lodging Association announce their WAVE winners, recognizing outstanding service providers in the local hospitality industry. This year’s winners are Jeff Fenton and Jenifer Cutter of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel; Kellie Rowland of Mixology Lounge in the JW Marriot Hotel; Doyle Fisher of Metro Cab; and Ashley Alexander of the West Michigan Sports Commission.
The winners and their employers will be formally recognized at the festival on Thursday. They will then be nominated for the Stars of the Industry Awards, a statewide recognition program. That competition will be part of the Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference next March in Grand Rapids.
Hours for the festival are 5-10 p.m. Thursday, 4-10 p.m. Friday, and noon-10 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $15, sampling tickets are 50 cents and attendees must be 21 years of age. For more information see showspan.com.