Unfortunately, this event has a ton of potential that it’s not living up to. It suffers from a very serious identity crisis.
Is it a wine festival, brew festival, a food/culinary festival, concert or trade show? What’s the strategy? Who is the target market? I feel that it’s trying to be something for everyone, which really dilutes the interest and presentation.
It’s fairly successful as a wine festival. There’s a good selection of wineries – many more wines than any human can taste (without spitting, and who spits??) in the 16 hours the event is open. You don’t need a hundred wineries represented to be a great wine festival, but that’s a trap that many fall into.
It fails as a brew fest. The selection is small and simply feels like an accommodation to bring those paying couples in the door – one person who’s a wine drinker, the other a beer drinker.
It fails as a food festival. The Flight Deck and Adam’s Ribs (both from Salem) and Wellspring (Woodburn) were the only “local” restaurants represented. Where were the better restaurants like Bentley’s, Wild Pear, Jonathon’s, Rudy’s, Orupa, Da Vinci’s, LaCapitale, Andaluz, Venti’s? The remaining food offerings were caterers! If you liked what they offered, you couldn’t visit their restaurants because they don’t exist.
The culinary offerings are good, but overkill. How many oils and vinegars does one festival need? You almost can’t have enough cheese at a festival, but where was Cascade Baking Company’s bread? Or Dave’s Killer Bread? Or even Great Harvest (although they’re more of a ‘corporate’ operation)?
It fails as a concert. The acoustics are terrible – which means many of the problems are not the musicians’ fault. The large, raised stage implies big-name and high quality. But the eclectic mix of entertainment is trying to be something for everyone, again diluting the interest and presentation. Also, there isn’t enough seating near the stage and I thought the ancient folding chair I sat in was going to collapse.
I can’t be kind about the trade show feel. What on earth are bath/shower enclosures doing there? Pellet stoves? Building contractors? Are you kidding me? That screams, “We’ll let anyone set up a booth who writes us a check.” Even the multi-level marketers like MagneticPURSEpective (My Miche) and Pampered Chef have no place there.
Seating? There was simply not enough, even though there were many wide open areas that could have accommodated additional seating.
The “warehouse” venue is a challenge. However, there are changes that could be made to soften the environment and improve the flow.
I know this review sounds pretty brutal, and I don’t really mean it to be. But each year I go, I hope that it has changed. But it hasn’t.