The Fraser Valley Wine Tasting Festival was a real corker over the weekend.
This year’s fundraiser, the 23rd annual, had more than 1,000 people flood the Willowbrook Shopping Centre corridors Saturday evening.
That equates into a 20 per cent jump in ticket sales from the hugely popular 2011 festival.
While numbers are still being tabulated, event co-chair David Taft estimated that roughly $50,000 was raised for this year’s chosen charity, the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation and specifically, the Family Maternity Centre expansion project at the local hospital.
The event wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the approximately 40 volunteers, including members of the Rotary Club of Langley Central, who put on the festival.
The volunteers had to work quickly between 6-7 p.m. Saturday. Once the mall closes its doors, set up began to accommodate 35 wine merchant tables, seven restaurants that offered samples of their fare, and two caterers.
“It’s a big deal trying to get that area of the shopping centre tuned up in less than two hours,” said Taft, who co-chaired the festival along with John Morgan.
Taft noted that even though each participating restaurant required heating and wash stations, everything was set up on time.
Vino connoisseurs as well as casual tasters had 210 varieties of wines to choose from during the two-and-a-half hour long event.
Since the festival, Taft said the reviews has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I have been receiving comments back through the [festival] website about how great the event was, and that was gratifying,” Taft said.
Roughly $900,000 has been raised over the event’s history.
Taft said all that money has gone back into the community.
Willowbrook Shopping Centre has been a huge supporter, hosting the event for the past 21 years and offering its space free of charge.
Patrons trekked to the mall, despite the drizzly weather.
Taft described the ambiance inside the mall as “terrific.”
“The food was outstanding, as well as the variety of foods we had,” he said.
“And being able to sample 210 different wines… we’ve never had numbers like that. I saw lots of happy face, and had lots of positive feedback from the people who attended the event.”
BDO Dunwoody, the festival’s main sponsor, has contributed $15,000 to the event's coffers each of the past five years, to the tune of $75,000.
Next year, organizers will be looking for another local business to step forward “and be a leader,” Taft said.
Plans are in the works for the 24th annual wine festival, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013 at the Willowbrook Shopping Centre.