Getting a Wine Festival Off the Ground

Due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, the Verde Valley Wine Festival in Arizona Has rescheduled its annual Mother’s Day weekend event to November 7. But it will be the fifth year for the festival, which has grown each year. Planning such a festival can be a year-long project said festival director David Baird.

“It takes an incredible amount of coordination to make this day run smoothly,” he told Vintner recently. “We spend months thinking about how to improve it and add new attractions. It’s a team effort.

“This festival is truly local in every way, and that includes our coordination team, all of whom live and work in the Verde Valley, as well as our network of community volunteers and sponsors. We could not put on this event without their help.”

The wine festival has more than 30 volunteers each year to help run the Friday night fundraising dinner and auction along with the Saturday main event.

“Many of our volunteers come back year after year to help. It has become a tradition with them,” Baird said.

The Verde Valley Wine Festival was designed to give wine lovers of all knowledge levels a quick overview of what Arizona has to offer, and show them how important winemaking is to the local community. Even if someone isn’t steeped in wine knowledge, they can figure out what they like through tasting and experiencing many different wines Baird said.

“We’re bringing together 20 of the best winemakers in the state,” he noted. “That presents a real opportunity for anyone who is curious about Arizona wine to explore them and see which ones really align with their palate.”

Because ticket prices are very competitive compared to other festivals in the area ($35 for advance purchase general admission tickets) with a guaranteed certain number of tastes when they walk in the door, it’s an affordable event for anyone who is curious about wines.

“If they are already familiar with the wines, ticket holders can also purchase bottles to take home with them,” Baird said. Wine education is a huge part of the mission for founder Maynard James Keenan of Four Eight Wineworks and for the two nonprofits that Baird says they work with on the event. The area also touts Arizona’s only accredited college course for winemaking at the Yavapai Community College.

“So, it’s a good balance between education and commerce,” Baird said.

For wineries thinking of starting a wine tasting event or festival in their area, Baird points out it’s important to have the support of the local government and community.

“As a winemaker and owner of multiple businesses, it was important to Maynard James Keenan, our founder, to work side-by-side with the town to make sure they’re fully invested in the success of the Festival,” Baird said, noting that all of the surrounding businesses stand to benefit from its success, such as hotels, restaurants and tourists attractions.

“We’re very fortunate to have strong support from the Town of Clarkdale,” he added. “We work closely with them to make sure that we file all the required paperwork and obtain the needed permits well in advance to organize a festival of this size.

“I’d also recommend that no one winery should go it alone with an event like this. Partner with others in your local winemaking community.”

Another suggestion would be to take a close look at the amount of tourism your wine region is already pulling in. For Baird, in the Verde Valley, wine tourism is a huge business.

Ask yourself:

  • Does your area have enough tourist attractions to warrant a festival?
  • Will you have enough local hotels and restaurants to accommodate a large crowd that will be staying in your area for the weekend?
  • Can your location handle parking and traffic concerns?
  • What is unique about your winemaking region that you can highlight through an event like this?

Baird’s other advice is to give yourself ample time for planning. Don’t wait until the last minute.

“There will always be unforeseen issues that will pop up and you need to have a plan in place, so you can respond to them and still stay on track,” he said.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.