“Cheers to Ten Years” was the theme of Saturday’s 10th annual Food, Wine and Brew Fest sponsored by the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce.
Based on the crowds of past years, expectant planners had hoped to welcome 7,000 visitors, vendors, sponsors, and volunteers.
Observers of the past 10 years of the festival said there was a lot to like about this year’s event, but the rainy weather definitely had an adverse effect on the attendance.
Unofficially, the chamber reported that about 2,500 people from within the city and out of town made the pilgrimage to the park. Despite the unpredictable weather, out-of-state travelers also made the trip to this year’s festival.
“That’s a far cry from the 600 who attended the first one,” according to Jennifer McCann,” co-chair of the festival.
“We’re back on our feet and are in the early stages of planning the 2019 festival,” she said. McCann told the Herald that it takes a year and half to plan each festival.
Gina Pence, president and CEO of the Heights Chamber said, “There were intermittent showers throughout the afternoon at the park, but there was never any major downpours nor lightning that caused people to run for cover.
“Our weather watchers reported that the heaviest scattered rains fell in neighboring cities across Central Texas,” Pence said.
“People who had made their plans to attend were convinced that the rain was coming down in buckets over the park and that was just not the case. This was the first year that unfavorable weather has ever impacted a festival,” she said.
Festival planners next year will repeat some of the newer events such as Battle of the Bands, and the competition for the best winery and brewery and Trash Can Punch.
“We highlighted local artists throughout the day. Stone carvers were new last year. Log carvers creating trunk statutes using chain saws drew a crowd this year and will return in 2019,” Pence said.
The winner of the Battle of the Bands was “Another Band of Gypsys.”
A spicy concoction, that favored a Bloody Mary, took top honors in the Trash Can Punch category created by Tiffany Kimble-Young and Shirley Muriel.
The alcohol-based drink had to be drinkable in order to qualify. The finished product included 10 different ingredients provided by H-E-B.
Once the judges had made their decision and presented the trophy to the winners, the crowd gathered around for free samples.
The brew was not actually stirred up in huge by-the-curb trash cans but in smaller clean and shiny buckets.
Winner of the Best Winery was Pilot Knob in Bertram. Best brewery was Southern Star in Conroe.
Pence said, “There is no way we can express our gratitude enough to our major sponsor H-E-B, whose True Texas barbecue and the H-E-B kiosk was the first vendor that people saw as they entered the park.”
Sitting outside of the entrance to the H-E-B kiosk were brother and sister Julia and Tony Frassetto of Daytona Beach, Florida.
Julia Frassetto is a Heights resident and an active-duty soldier at Fort Hood. Her brother Tony was making his way back to the Carolinas from Phoenix and stopped to spend time with Julia.
Julia’s favorite part of the event was sampling several of the wines from across Texas.
“I didn’t know Texas had so many vineyards. This was also a dog-friendly event and I liked that,” she said.
With a big grin on his face, Tony said, “We’ve got our sunglasses on and after sampling a handful of different wines and some good brisket, there’s no reason to complain.”
“H-E-B was one of 97 vendors that stuck with us throughout the day and provided wonderful food and drink,” Pence said. “Of the 100 vendors who had committed only two dropped out because of the weather.”
The “Cheers to Ten Years” festival would surpass last year’s wines from 12 Texas vineyards and 52 Texas craft beers.
McCann told the Herald that it’s vendors and sponsorships that make these festivals successful. “If not for this wide range of support, we would not have had ten years of festivals to talk about. Because of our partnerships, we’ll be able to count on them again next year,” McCann said.
According to Pence, other keys sponsors to the festival are KCEN News 6, Flintrock Developers, Fox 44, TownSquare Media, Let Us Do the Cooking and The Barton House, along with the community partners of the City of Harker Heights, Parks and Receation Department, Harker Heights Police Department, Harker Heights Fire Department, the Harker Heights Mayor and City Council and City Manager David Mitchell, Go Texan, the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Heights Chamber Ambassadors, 100 volunteers and assistance from Eagle Express.
ERA Colonial Real Estate got to into the spirit of giving back to the community by working in conjunction with the Harker Heights Animal Shelter.
All donations went to the shelter. Colonial spokesperson Sara Wise said, “We’re also having a raffle and giving away a free basket with a $150 gift card inside for the Vineyard in Florence.”
Festival sponsors by the numbers, in addition to Presenting Sponsor-HEB, Diamond Sponsor-KCEN-TV and Gold Sponsor- Seton Medical Center, totaled 44.
Pence told the Herald that the next big event would be the Chamber of Commerce annual banquet scheduled for January.
Details will be released soon.