Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival takes a pass for 2020

Virtual event planned for September 12, 13

By Steve Hopkins

The Kingston Daily Freeman on Saturday, August 8, published a comprehensive list of the status of Mid-Hudson Valley events and institutions that have been impacted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of these impacts — more than 40 in all — involved the canceling of large, eagerly anticipated events or the closing of the doors of venerable, beloved institutions. The Dutchess, Columbia and Ulster County fairs, as well as all other fairs in New York State. The Garlic Festival in Saugerties. All big shows at Bethel Woods. All Bardavon and UPAC concerts. The Hooley in Kingston. At the very top of this very long and mostly heart-wrenching list was the news that the 19th Annual Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival, slated to be held this September 12th and 13th at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, would be the latest regional casualty to fall to this planet-wide scourge of 2020.

The decision of the Wine Fest’s promoters, led by WineRacks.com company president Michael Babcock and event coordinator Jennifer Cristaldi, was not taken easily. It was the result of months of evaluation, consultation and discussion. “The safety of our guests is of top priority and as difficult as it is to have to wait another year, we feel it’s in everyone’s best interest,” said Cristaldi.

The Wine Fest’s announcement comes on the heels of the cancellation of the 175th annual Dutchess County Fair, which was announced in June. The fair’s president and CEO, Andy Imperati, was devastated, and his statement predicted the probable fate of other large events planned for the fairgrounds this year. “We explored all options. This was a very emotional and difficult decision to make,” said Imperati. “We know that the impact of the fair’s cancellation will be felt far beyond the loss of our annual celebration. We are heartbroken for the small businesses, family farms, competitors and exhibitors and communities who rely on the income and exposure the Dutchess County Fair brings them. We have one chance to do it right and if we cannot present the best of the best to our fairgoers, then we will not do it. The fair industry is resilient and adaptable. We will meet again … we hope you are staying safe and healthy and know that we are thinking of you.” 

Like the Dutchess County Fair, the Garlic Festival, and other big, popular events in the Hudson Valley, the annual Wine Fest has for years served as an engine of economic activity and a boon to local and regional individuals and businesses. Upwards of 20,000 people are drawn to Rhinebeck and environs over a two-day weekend period every year. Celebrating the onset of the Autumn tourist season, the crowds come to drink in the colorful atmosphere, listen to great live music, sample wines and other beverages from the scores of wineries, breweries and distilleries, and dine on the delicacies provided by 80-odd food vendors of all types. All of these food and beverage vendors count heavily on the festival to boost sales and gain access to the vast customer base of epicurean-savvy people who call the Hudson Valley home. The valley, with the Wine Fest as one of its premier events, is a major stop on the annual quests of food tourists from all over the nation and the world. According to Dutchess Tourism, which records such things, tourists in 2017 alone spent more than $150 million on epicurean pursuits in Dutchess County alone. A generous hunk of that total was rung up at the 16th Annual Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival.

The Solution

Business owners, ticket holders and anyone else looking forward to this event are going to be disappointed — although none more than the festival’s promoters who had to make this decision. However, instead of leaving the many supporters of the event over the years empty-handed and dreaming of the taste of fine wine, beverages and cuisine, Babcock, Cristaldi and their team are working hard to fill the gap. Although the gates will be closed, an on-line portal is opening wide. “All is not lost,” said Cristaldi. “We will be holding a virtual event in the Wine Fest’s place on September 12 and 13.”

While nothing can really match the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and sociability of actually being there, the inaugural Virtual Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival will provide many opportunities for both vendors and on-line attendees to achieve a tasty and fulfilling outcome. Vendors will be provided access to the Virtual Vendor Village, which will allow them to post items for sale. Vendors can virtually staff their booths during the festival and hold live chat and video conferencing sessions with online guests. Guests can peruse the virtual booths and make on-line purchases. Celebrity chefs and wine experts will be live-streaming throughout the weekend. The Virtual 2020 Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest will be made accessible via email and social media channels by the Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest team. The two-day event will live-stream on EventHub, at the following link: https://eventhub.shop/2020-hudson-valley-wine-food-fest

Further details and a comprehensive schedule of programming to take place during the virtual event will be made available soon. Although tickets purchased for the 19th Annual Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival are non-refundable, all patrons are advised to keep them in a safe place, as they will be honored for entry into the 2021 event. Groupon voucher holders will have their voucher expiration date automatically extended through the 2021 event and should receive notification directly from Groupon. 

Whether in person or virtually, the Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest is dedicated to celebrating the bounty of wine, food and fun in the Hudson Valley. This event takes place every year on the weekend following Labor Day, and will return to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in beautiful Rhinebeck, NY when the threshold for the continued health and well-being of our cherished epicurean community is more certain. Until then, Cheers! And please join us on-line on September 12 and 13. We at the Hudson Valley Epicurean will be there virtually, and hope to see you there as well. Meanwhile, take care of yourselves, and stay safe. We and the Wine Festival staff look forward to the time we can all get together again in person. For more information, please visit HudsonValleyWineFest.com or call (845) 658-7181.

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