20,000 at A'burg wine fest
September 13th, 2012:
Eleven wineries, 28 restaurants
Although Lynda Pigeon was surrounded by friends and family Sunday at the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival, there was one person missing.
On Aug. 14, her sister Mary Lou passed away. The sisters had been looking forward to attending the wine festival together as they always did, with tickets already purchased. Although Mary Lou was sick, she was planning on allowing herself one glass of Merlot at the festival this year, said Pigeon.
"So today, we're not having any Merlot, just whites," said Pigeon. She choked up explaining that it would have been Mary Lou's birthday Sunday.
"Here's to Mary Lou," Pigeon said, raising her glass in the air, as the group of friends and family around her cheered in her sister's honour.
Festival director Kelly O'Rourke said about 20,000 people attended the festival this year. She said the festival has grown from originally featuring only three wineries and seven restaurants, to 11 local wineries and 28 restaurants.
"We have to realize that our region is something to be really proud of. The wineries in our area are winning Canadian awards, and that's something we all need to be proud of," said O'Rourke. "And the fact that we can bring them all together in one place for everybody to get a taste of, and then perhaps go back out to their wineries and visit them, it helps all of us. The economic impact from our festival is unbelievable."
Pigeon's group was laughing and having a good time. They were lucky enough to snag a picnic bench right along the waterfront.
"It's just a time for family, good friends and good times," Lynda's sister, Sue Langlois, said of the annual event.
Their friend Mary Fournier sported her usual T-shirt that reads Grandma's Sippy Cup and featured a jewelembellished picture of a wineglass.
Pigeon said the group comes every year on the Sunday of the festival because it is a more relaxed atmosphere than the Friday and Saturday, which are usually packed.
"And our livers will only allow us to come once," Lynda joked. "Then it takes a year for the liver to recover."
Harvey Hoolingshead, who owns Erie Shore Vineyard with his wife, Alma, has been a vendor at the event since it started eight years ago. He said this was the busiest Sunday he's seen. He always enjoys the last day of the festival the most because things tend to slow down, givings him a chance to talk and get to know his customers.
"On Friday or Saturday night, people are just yelling red or white and you're just in full-scale panic mode and don't have a chance to talk with anybody," said Hoolingshead, who said the festival is the biggest event of the year to showcase his wines.
Right from the start, the festival was successful beyond his wildest dreams, and he appreciates that organizers continue to keep the focus on local wines.
"There's no spirits here, no beer here, no lemonade stands here - this is a wine festival," said Hoolingshead.
Friends Sande Estefan and Jackie Pagaduan said although they were among the youngest attending the festival - both are in their early 20s - they enjoy sipping on a good glass of wine.
"I feel like a lot of younger people in Windsor, because we have a downtown, everyone's drinking vodka bombs, but I like to have wine," said Pagaduan. "And it's nice to have during the day. It's a nice change."
The pair sat on the grass right along the riverfront, enjoying the view of freighters and pleasure crafts passing by and the sun beginning its slow descent. This was the first time they attended the festival, and they said they'll probably be back because it's a nice way to end the summer and it's something different from the events they usually attend back home in Windsor.
"I feel like, basically, we went on a road trip that took 30 minutes to drive out here," said Pagaduan. "I feel far away from home, but we're not. It's nice to leave the city sometimes."
The Windsor Star
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