By Matt Goodman
Killeen Daily Herald
The Central Texas Food and Wine Festival provided a new opportunity for residents to commune and sample eats and drinks from around the state.
But it wasn't without setbacks. The Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce event, which took place at the new Harker Heights Community park and has been in planning for 10 months, had to overcome stricter Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission rules concerning serving alcohol outdoors and a date that overlapped with Grapevine's annual Grapefest event, making it difficult to get commitments from state wineries.
"Overall, it's been really wonderful," said chamber president Bill Kozlik. "We were set back because of Grapefest, but we have a commitment from about 40 to 50 vendors to participate in next year's event."
Though even with the obstacles, attendees said the relaxed atmosphere and the wide sampling of restaurant vendors made the event a success.
The chamber had representation from 23 vendors, including four Texas wineries, three of which were present. Five bands played throughout the afternoon in the background, giving the Central Texas crowd a laid back feel that complemented the pleasant weather.
Lampasas based Texas Legato and Pillar Bluff wineries brought their products to the crowd, as well as Georgetown Winery, based in Georgetown, and Inwood Estates, which is based out of Dallas.
"For a first time event, I think they've done an incredible job," said Pillar Bluff representative Michelle Stone. "The people have been consistently flowing in since the doors opened."
Attendees could pick from wines such as Georgetown Winery's Sweet White, Cowboy Red and Chardonnay as well as the full bodied Bordoe wine from Pillar Bluff, its signature wine. Pillar Bluff also brought a white wine made at Texas Legato, which had representatives at Grapefest.
"This gets word out on who we are," said Dan Marek, owner of Georgetown Winery. "We're always making new wines … so this shows people where we are located and how to find us."
The Chamber's regional marketing campaign worked, bringing in attendees from the Belton and Temple areas.
"It's something different for the area," said Belton resident Tami Roehr. "I wish they had a few more wineries, but it's still a great time."
While the wine vendors were limited, the food was not. Central Texas College had an on-site cooking area and local restaurants such as Mi Casa Su Casa prepared samples of their food.
"I live in Harker Heights and I wanted to come out and try this new community event," said resident Jim Endicott. "I think it's wonderful. The Chamber has grown dramatically and they're trying to do some signature events. This is definitely one of those."
Officials are looking forward to next year's event, which Kozlik said would fill out the empty space in the new community park. There's plenty of room to grow, he said, and he expects more participation from state wineries. But even with the setbacks, the event managed to sell about 650 tickets.
"A lot of people don't realize all the great wineries we have in Texas," said Jennifer Mobley, who will organize next year's event. "I think this is one of the best events we have."
Contact Matt Goodman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7550.