Sunday, July 15, 2007

Report from: Festival Epicure - July 7, 2007

Before I begin let me say that I had someone read this before publishing and they said – “did you like the event or not, your focus is on the weather.” To which I answered, “It was a really hot day.” It is the one thing I took away from Festival Epicure this year – and the one thing that stuck … but allow me to say unequivocally that I did enjoy the event and think under a sunny sky and less heat it would have been the perfect day. So let’s see what I did write:

On what could have been one of the hottest days of the summer (so far), I attended Festival Epicure held in Windsor, Ontario. The thermometer rose to a blistering 91 degrees, I know this because Windsor remains one of the last bastions in Canada that still follows the Fahrenheit scale – they say it is because they are so close to the border. Organizers and exhibitors must have loved the sunny weather, but the daytime heat proved to be a bit of a detriment, as many either stayed at home or under the shade of the tented area during those daytime hours. At 4:30 in the afternoon many of the free standing wooden tables spread throughout the courtyard area remained mostly unoccupied – while under the big top it was standing room only, with people using plates, napkins, brochures, menus or anything else handy to fan themselves. On stage, located at the other end of the grounds, Johannes Linstead and his band did their very best to play cool tunes to a sparse, hot and tired crowd. Of course, kids are immune to the heat and hot, wet, cold, whatever, nothing stops them from having a good time – many youngsters found their way onto the floor-space in front of the stage to do their knee-bopping dance with either mom or dad as their reluctant partner. I suspect that as the day cooled off and moved into the evening hours the place filled up with those in search of a good time, reasonable drinks and a bite to eat. As I toured a few wineries earlier in the day most people I spoke with (staff and visitors alike) were planning to make their way to the festival “later” to catch Priscilla Pryce, Spyder Turner or Impact 7 … and avoid the heat.

For those who are not aware of Festival Epicure, now in its 13th year, it’s a waterfront food and wine (beer & spirits) spectacular, with about 29 restaurants, wineries, breweries and spirit manufacturers all taking part, a showcase of their wares feed and “water” the crowd. The admission onto the grounds, held at Windsor’s Riverfront Festival Plaza, was a very reasonable five dollars and food and drink ranged in price from $2 to $8, depending on your chosen gastronomical pleasure or libation. Entertainment plays all day (from noon to well past midnight), the food is enjoyable and the drinks are some of the best from the area wineries and breweries. The festival itself ran from Friday to Sunday. Aside from the extreme heat, which radiated off the asphalt creating an oven-like effect, if was a great event to attend – a local informed me that the “park” used to be grass but for easy maintenance they paved it over. As you would expect the busiest booth at the time of day I was there was the Lemonade Stand … the cherry lemonade was outstanding as well as refreshing. Next year I’m thinking that organizers will be hoping for the little cooler temperature, but the same kind of sunny day … a tough request to make in the middle of the summer – but one can cross their fingers. Of course if could have been raining; then you would have had to listen to me complain about how wet it was – you just can’t win. The event gets an A+; the weather’s grade depends on your point of view.

From the Organizer - Ken Brandes: "Too bad you did not attend [in the] evening ... crowds were shoulder to shoulder and you would have had a different impression, altogether ... a more subdued daytime crowd slowly evolves into a party-like night audience. And a tremendous heat wave causes the festival goer to delay purchase into the cooler evening hours, as witnessed both Saturday and Sunday ... but to get the flavour of this 3 day event, a critic must come at night, as well as the day, to get the gestalt of the event."

So I asked an evening goer - Tanya Mitchell winemaker for Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery - for her impressions: "The crowd was so packed I could barely move around when I arrived at 9pm - but it dwindled to the perfect amount by 10pm ... the vibe was definitely on par with what I was looking for. The weather was absolutely perfect, breezy and warm after such a hot afternoon!"

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