Instead of a sit down to enjoy wine at the annual Art Fair & Winefest, this year’s festival will feature a drive-up.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers of the 39-year-old tradition first to postpone the annual event from its traditional May date and then to recreate it to meet social distancing restrictions.
“Unfortunately, the difficult decision had to be made to modify the traditional Art Fair & Winefest experience,” said Washington Inc. Executive Director Tyler King.
“The reality is, there is no way to host thousands of guests in our downtown while maintaining social distancing and public health guidelines to ensure the safety of our community, volunteers and staff,” King said.
The new event, called Winefest Pick-Up Party, will be held outside of the Downtown Washington Post Office Saturday, July 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and feature wine selections from across Missouri Wine Country with three wine basket options available for preorder.
To help support this year’s event, Downtown Washington Inc. asked wineries to each donate four cases of wine. Previously, Downtown Washington Inc. purchased the wine at wholesale for the event, which raises money for downtown initiatives.
King said festival ticketholders will be contacted with details on how the tickets will be applied.
Wineries participating in the event include Adam Puchta Winery, Augusta Winery and Montelle Winery, Belmont Vineyards, McKelvey Vineyards, Small Batch Winery, Stone Hill Winery, White Mule Winery and St. James Winery.
Jim Blattel, owner of Small Batch Winery, said he is donating five cases of wine, including one case each of Southern Nector, Cherry Elle, Ally’s Green Apple, White Razz and Island Breez. He said he will donate additionalcases as needed.
“I am excited to still be a part of this event,” Blattel said. “It is a great opportunity to serve customers who enjoy wine.”
Karen Schlottach, owner of White Mule, also is donating four cases of wine.
“I do not have the wines selected but I will do two cases of red and two cases of white,” Schlottach said. “Most likely the Double Tree red wine and Double Tree white wine will be included in those cases.
“I was hopeful with things opening back up they would be able to hold more of a normal festival with restrictions,” Schlottach said. “But I understand and I am happy something is still happening with it.”
The Art Fair & Winefest had been postponed to July 10-12, but King said given CDC recommendations that gatherings still be limited to no more than 250 people, Downtown Washington Inc. officials knew they had to reconfigure the event for safety reasons.
Last year, the winefest, which traditionally features food and drink vendors, entertainment and wine tastings, drew about 20,000 people over the three-day event at the Farmers’ Market.
King said Lafayette Street will be closed in front of the post office from Main Street to Second Street for the Winefest Pick-Up.
“This new, modified event is also a chance to continue your support of our downtown historic district,” King said. “As a community member, your constant support has sustained this institution for over 30 years, and we need your help now more than ever.”
The Art Fair & Winefest is Downtown Washington’s top annual fundraising event. It is currently facing a significant financial deficit. The money raised goes toward the organization’s mission of promoting an attractive and financially stable downtown while preserving its historic resources and enriching the community.
“Downtown Washington, Inc. will be accepting any and all donations at the Winefest Pick-Up Party,” King said. “We hope people continue to support Downtown Washington Inc. and our downtown businesses during these uncertain times.”
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