SOE Wine Festival organizers pleased despite stormy Friday night

 

Shores of Erie International Wine Festival committee members toast the crowd during opening ceremonies Sept. 4.

Shores of Erie International Wine Festival committee members toast the crowd during opening ceremonies Sept. 4.

Balloons are released at the conclusion of the Sept. 4 opening ceremonies.

Balloons are released at the conclusion of the Sept. 4 opening ceremonies.

Pat Robitaille of The Walkervilles performs at the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival at Fort Malden National Historic Site on Sept. 5. A powerful thunderstorm wiped out the Serena Ryder concert that was supposed to follow. Photo by Adam D'Andrea.

Pat Robitaille of The Walkervilles performs at the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival at Fort Malden National Historic Site on Sept. 5. A powerful thunderstorm wiped out the Serena Ryder concert that was supposed to follow. Photo by Adam D’Andrea.

Walk Off The Earth was the featured band Sept. 4.

Walk Off The Earth was the featured band Sept. 4.

Taoist Tai Chi members demonstrate at the wine festival Sept. 7.

Taoist Tai Chi members demonstrate at the wine festival Sept. 7.

Mary Ewer, Jon Veitsch, Alice Elvy, Jessica Ewer and Kieth Ewer enjoy the wine festival Sunday, Sept. 7.

Mary Ewer, Jon Veitsch, Alice Elvy, Jessica Ewer and Kieth Ewer enjoy the wine festival Sunday, Sept. 7.

Brian and Jan Rogers from Wales enjoy the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival Sept. 7.

Brian and Jan Rogers from Wales enjoy the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival Sept. 7.

A wine tour is conducted Sept. 7.

A wine tour is conducted Sept. 7.

Rob Rainford, host of Food Network Canada's Licence to Grill, hosts a cooking demonstration during the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival at Fort Malden National Historic Site Sept. 7. Photo by Adam D'Andrea.

Rob Rainford, host of Food Network Canada’s Licence to Grill, hosts a cooking demonstration during the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival at Fort Malden National Historic Site Sept. 7. Photo by Adam D’Andrea.

Volunteers cleanup Sept. 6 after a powerful storm whipped through the area, causing an evacuation at the wine festival the night before.

Volunteers cleanup Sept. 6 after a powerful storm whipped through the area, causing an evacuation at the wine festival the night before.

A tent sits partially collapsed at the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival Sept. 5. A storm caused the grounds to be evacuated but the festival was able to re-open the following afternoon.

A tent sits partially collapsed at the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival Sept. 5. A storm caused the grounds to be evacuated but the festival was able to re-open the following afternoon.

By Ron Giofu

 

Organizers of the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival are happy with the overall result of the tenth annual event.

The festival ran from last Thursday night through Sunday and included a powerful thunderstorm that caused the grounds to be evacuated Friday night. While power lines and tents were downed during the storm and some non-life threatening injuries sustained by some, committee chair Karen Gyorgy was satisfied with how things transpired. What was a disaster area at Fort Malden National Historic Site Friday night was cleaned and repaired by Saturday afternoon when the festival re-opened.

“What could have a complete disaster turned out to be a complete outpouring of support from the community,” said Gyorgy. “I don’t know how the Shores of Erie will express our appreciation for the volunteers that came out Saturday morning. We turned what could have been a negative into an extreme positive.”

Gyorgy said the evacuation plan was something they had in place since 2010 but it was something that couldn’t be practiced. She said they learned from it and will tweak the plan accordingly.

The wine festival re-opened later than normal Saturday, at 2 p.m., but Gyorgy said by 1 p.m. Saturday “the park looked like nothing happened.

“I’m really overwhelmed by the community that came together. That’s the biggest accomplishment,” she said. “We did everything possible to keep patrons safe.”

Gyorgy said people had a great time Thursday night as well as Friday until the storm hit. Saturday was sold out and Sunday had higher than normal attendance. She said most people were very supportive throughout the festival and estimated 22,000 in total attended.

“The wineries and vendors were very, very happy,” she said. “I think we had one of the best varieties in restaurants this year. We’re happy. We wanted it special and it was a great celebration.”

Brian and Jan Rogers were in Canada vacationing from Wales and were at the wine festival with family. They liked what they saw Sunday afternoon.

“It’s great,” said Jan, joking that “it’s nice to be here on a dry day.”

During Thursday evening’s opening ceremonies, Tourism Windsor Essex County Pelee Island (TWEPI) CEO Gordon Orr called the wine festival “one festival that keeps getting better with age, no doubt about it.” Mayor Wayne Hurst called it a “signature event not just for the town of Amherstburg but for the Province of Ontario” while Essex MP Jeff Watson noted it draws people from southwestern Ontario, Michigan and Ohio.

“It has become one of the signature events across Ontario,” Watson added. “That doesn’t happen by accident.”

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