Chocolate And Wine Fest Draws Record Crowds
An estimated 2,800 people attended the fourth annual Chocolate and Wine Festival held in Montrose on May 21. Organizers of the event, proceeds from which benefitted both Endless Mountains Health Systems and the Susquehanna Historical Society and Free Library Association, felt blessed when gloomy morning clouds gave way to brilliant sunshine and temperatures in the upper 70s. Event coordinator Tom Follert announced afterward that $24,000 had been raised by the end of the event, eclipsing last year’s total by about $6,000.
The number of vendors was also up, from 45 in 2010 to 65 this year. In addition to 12 wineries, patrons sampled goods and made purchases from numerous confectioners and makers of other snacks and food items, including coffee, ice cream, pudding and condiments. Additional vendors exhibited pet supplies, candles, homemade soaps, jewelry, photography and various home services. Local bed and breakfast operators were represented, as were wellness providers, youth sports leagues, emergency responders, and Citizens for Clean Water. Sponsors included local eateries, inns, supply companies and gas companies that are drilling in the area.
This year marked the debut of several wineries, including Grovedale Winery of Wyalusing, a representative of which noted that the company’s Susquehanna Sunset and Niagara varieties were among the favorites of festival patrons that day.
“People seem really impressed by the quality of the vendors and the number of participating wineries,” said Follert, who noted that many people who follow the “wine festival circuit” come from New York City and from across the Empire State to Montrose each year. “We work really hard to make sure that this is a good family-oriented event,” he added. Follert was one of about 15 key organizers of the festival, but there were dozens of volunteers in red shirts serving the various needs of vendors and patrons throughout the event.
Aaron Taylor of Montrose worked security for the event in 2010 and returned this year because the festival “looked like a lot of fun.” He was enjoying wine sampling with his friends, Allison Quattrocchi and Keris Rafferty, also of Montrose.
Chestnut Street was closed to vehicular traffic, which allowed the throngs of people to wander freely from wine tents to chocolate stands, where they sampled numerous varieties of wine, in addition to sweets. Live music was provided by Lonnie Griffith’s Band, a local group that capped off their evening with another performance at the Inn at Montrose, and by national recording artists Fastball, who delivered a two-hour set that included hits such as “The Way” and “Fire Escape.”
Many festival goers attended the event primarily to hear the performance by Fastball, but they were thrilled also with the variety of food, wine and activities that the event had to offer. For the wine and chocolate fans, the live music was the proverbial icing on the cake.
Bob McKinney and his sister, Trish McKinney, both of Montrose, were sampling chocolates when asked about their favorite part of the festival.
“The sun is what’s making the day special,” he stated.
“The food is really good,” said Eric Atkinson of Tunkhannock, who set up front-row seats with additional family and friends from Tunkhannock to see the bands.
In addition to ticket sales, proceeds were realized from the sale of entries to the Everything Chocolate Recipe Contest. Cooks, bakers and confectioners dropped off their entries in the morning with a suggested price for samples, which were nearly gone within an hour of the end of the event.
“The quality of the desserts keeps going up and up,” said three-year recipe contest judge Cathy Chiarella of Hallstead. Some of the contest proceeds, she noted, were earmarked for scholarships for seniors at Elk Lake High School to attend culinary school after graduation. Recipe contest winners included third place winner Betty Humpter, who created a chocolate stout cake with raspberry ganache; second place winner Kay Gardner for her chocolate walnut torte, and first place winner Judy Phillips, who entered a wine-soaked chocolate cake.
Activities were not limited to those inside the cordoned-off area, for which tickets were required. In the streets surrounding the venue, visitors to Montrose were invited to the library for chocolate-based children’s activities. There were chocolate factory tours, a juried art exhibit and a quilt display, as well as cupcake decorating and an interactive story time.
“Everything went as well as I could have hoped,” Follert remarked two days later. “It was a beautiful day, and it looked like everybody had fun.”
Additional photos from the event can be found online at www.rocket-courier.com. Additional comments about the event can be found at www.facebook.com/pages/Montrose-Chocolate-and-Wine-Festival/75600148424.a