Wind-blown wine festival still wins fans

For many area residents, the Wine Festival at Dilworthtown Inn has become a much-anticipated rite of fall, following the weekend of Chester County Day, another beloved October tradition.

Artist Karl J. Kuerner III (left) is joined by Nick Cerchio, his representative, in the Artisan's Gallery.

Artist Karl J. Kuerner III (left) is joined by Nick Cerchio, his representative, in the Artisan's Gallery at the festival.

For a time on Sunday, Oct. 9, the 25th event appeared headed for a blustery washout, but diehard fans weren’t about to let that happen. And in the end, the weather cooperated: The rain subsided before the festivities started, the skies turned blue by mid-afternoon, and the winds simply prompted some inventive intervention as vendors found ways to anchor tents and signs.

“I’m on fence duty,” joked Andrea Devoti, president and CEO of Neighborhood Health Agencies, Inc., explaining that her job was to make sure the white picket enclosure around the VIP tent stayed upright – not an easy task.

Devoti said she has been attending the festival, which benefits the Abramson Cancer Program of Chester County Hospital and Neighborhood Health, for about 18 years and has worked the past eight or nine as a volunteer.

A sign shows the effects of the wind gusts.

A sign shows the effects of the wind gusts at the 25th Annual Wine Festival at Dilworthtown Inn.

“I’ve seen it grow; it’s such a great event,” Devoti said. “I really enjoy the relaxed atmosphere; tomorrow we can get back to the stressful stuff.”

Melissa Stillman agreed, explaining that Stillman Volvo has been a sponsor of the festival for some time. “This is the windiest it’s been in more than five years,” she said.

Stillman was accompanied by her friends Becky Guy and Michael Ruggiero. For Guy, the event was new and she said she plans to return next year.

Ruggiero, who works at Volvo Cars of North America, said he was having a great time – as he always does – with one exception: “We feel bad for the two people who blew away,” he deadpanned. “They probably didn’t eat enough.”

Another first-time attendee, Jeff Emmons of West Chester, said he appreciated the opportunity to have fun while supporting a good cause. “It great to see a big commitment to the hospital and the community,” he said.

Martin and Colette Milligan of Newtown Square are repeat visitors to the Wine Festival at Dilworthtown Inn.

Martin and Colette Milligan of Newtown Square are repeat visitors to the Wine Festival at Dilworthtown Inn.

Martin Milligan Jr., vice president of business development for Destination Delco, was another repeat visitor with his wife, Colette. “The food’s always good, and it’s all for a great cause,” he said.

Milligan, who lives in Newtown Square, said he felt bad for the people who had been looking forward to the performance car show, which was a casualty of the weather, but that wasn’t going to ruin his afternoon. “We’re here for the wine,” he said.

Jim Adams of Levante Brewing Company of West Chester said his company was participating for the second year and welcomed the opportunity to support the hospital. “We’re all about giving back to the community,” he said.

Levante was one of five area breweries providing craft-beer samples. In addition, a handful of local wineries were represented, along with several distributors, ensuring a wide array of options for oenophiles.

Jeff Fulmer of Saucony Creek Craft Brewery in Kutztown enjoys sharing samples.

Jeff Fulmer of Saucony Creek Craft Brewery in Kutztown enjoys sharing samples.

Once attendees had a glass in hand, they had numerous other options: browsing through a selection of artisan vendors, listening to the music of the Vince Brown Band, bidding on many dozens of silent auction items, selecting from a variety of food options, or just strolling the grounds of the historic Dilworthtown Inn.

Jude Matejkovic, an agent with Keller Williams' Paul Lott Real Estate team, arrived with a large screen so people could view prospective new homes while sipping chardonnay or pinot noir. He said during the past several years, no one had found their dream domicile at the wine festival; however, in one instance, someone contacted him a few weeks later because they were ready to sell. "It's great to be able to interact with a lot of people," he said.

Thomas Gavin, director of development for the Chester County Hospital Foundation, said the weather presented lots of challenges, calling it the worst he'd seen in 23 years of involvement with the wine festival. "I missed the first two [festivals]," he said, explaining that he worked for the Dilworthtown Inn before his job for the hospital.

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Tom Gavin, the festival's chief organizer, says the weather presented challenges but many people came together to ensure the event's success.

"We had well over 1,000 participants, some of whom have been to all 25 wine festivals," Gavin said, noting that the 30 percent decline in recent attendance was minimal considering the weather as well as competition from the Eagles' football game.  "Helping patients living with cancer in our community is a very important mission. And although I am sure event-goers would have chosen to support their friends and neighbors battling cancer, we didn't want them to choose so we broadcast the game on big-screen TVs at several locations in the festival."

He said the festival couldn’t happen without assistance from more than 300 volunteers. They included members of the Brandywine and Greystone Women’s Auxiliaries to Chester County Hospital; employees of Neighborhood Health Hospice, Abramson Cancer Center, the Dilworthtown Inn,  the Inn Keepers Kitchen, and the Blue Pear; the Bishop Shanahan High football team; the Friars from West Chester University; and concerned friends and neighbors. In addition, the wineries, breweries and cider-producers generously donated their time, Gavin said.

Volunteers struggle to keep an umbrella and table for going airborne during the festival.

Volunteers struggle to keep an umbrella and table for going airborne during the festival.

Proceeds from the wine festival benefit patients of the Abramson Cancer Program of Chester County Hospital and Neighborhood Health. Through a partnership with the Penn Cancer Network, the program offers the latest treatment protocols and cutting-edge technology, including ancillary care outside the hospital.

Gavin said he received a lot of positive feedback from attendees. "All in all, it was a great day for a great cause," he said.

 

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