35 years of wine, music and good times
at Walnut Creek Art & Wine Festival
By Lou Fancher
People who say the sharing economy is new are just wrong.
For 34 years, the admission-free Walnut Creek Art & Wine Festival has been a mecca of sharing. The two-day event presented by the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau brings together volunteers, arts, crafts and food vendors, live bands, craft brewers and vintners and upward of 90,000 visitors over the two days each year.
This year's lollapalooza, June 4-5 at Heather Farm Park, all starts with people like Mary Ann Quinn.
"She's been the chair of the committee for at least a dozen years," said Jay Hoyer, the chamber's chief executive officer. "She stays behind the scenes, but she's involved her family from the minute they could walk -- and now they're adults and still participating. She's passionate about it being a family-oriented event."
In addition to a Kids Zone with the ever-popular "Water Bobbles" and other attractions, there's a new 90-foot Super Slide and a few arcade-style games.
Although there'll be no grape stomping competition this year due to overwhelming response to a new "Rising Stars" showcase, Hoyer said hometown enthusiasm is exactly what the festival is meant to celebrate. The synchronized-swimming Aquanuts, the Diablo Women's Chorale, the Mau Loa Hana Dancers and other mostly local acts run back-to-back both days.
It won't be all synchronized swimming, singing and swaying to Tahitian tunes, either. Rising Stars includes freestyle motocross demos, a first-time feature Hoyer and the festival committee are pumped to present. Hands-off backflips and ramp-to-ramp leaps from Keith Sayers Freestyle Motocross fulfill every kids' dream and every parent's nightmare -- except when it's done by the pros. Then, it revs young and old visitors' engines alike, Hoyer said.
Bands rocking out on the main stage will include Dan Ashley (TV newscaster) and PUSH, Neon Velvet, JC Smith Band, Big Bang Beat, the Civic Arts Jazz Band, Lumberyard, Fito Renoso and Mustache Harbor.
While all-ages entertainment and food prevail -- don't look for steaks and salads, it's mostly fair-type food prepared in high volume -- just-for-adults activities get a boost this year also.
"We've had a premium wine tent for years, but we're morphing it beyond just serving wine," Hoyer said. "We'll have music around it, fine art folks that we recruited. We're going to be doing scotch and vodka tasting too. It's broader."
Broader means more than just larger; it means mission-minded. Snow Leopard Vodka is one of the spirits that will be served. Scottish founder and wildlife enthusiast Stephen Sparrow created Snow Leopard to support snow leopard conservation. The website states that over $250,000 has been raised to date.
If longtime volunteers, vendors with good causes and the heartwarming applause of audiences cheering hometown talent aren't enough to signal sharing, there's one final note of generosity. Net proceeds from concessions go the non profit Chamber's general fund, which distributes support to cheerleading and sports teams, education committee teacher appreciation luncheons and other community events.