Wine tasters poured into Willowbrook mall Saturday night

29th Annual Fraser Valley Wine Festival was presented by Rotary Club of Langley Central

About 150 volunteers joined forces – and tipped their wine glasses – with the Rotary Club of Langley Central to again present one of BC’s biggest wine-tasting festivals to Willowbrook Shopping Centre on Nov. 2.

After a year’s hiatus due to extensive renovations at the mall, the 29th annual Fraser Valley Wine Festival attracted about 900 wine enthusiasts, and raised tens of thousands of dollars for local charity work.

John Peters, the Rotarian who is handling the financial aspects of the festival, said that the final numbers won’t be clear until all the bills and receipts are tallied, but he estimates that the net proceeds for charity will come in at “at least $50,000.”

He credited the community’s enthusiasm for the annual event, along with the benevolence of local sponsors and participating wine merchants, with the positive outcome for the Rotary club’s charity coffers.

He also noted that the annual festival has raised more than a million dollars for local charities since 1989.

“People don’t just come to taste the many wines, they know that the event is a fun way to accomplish good things for everybody,” said Peters. “Rotary will be using that money to do a lot of good work for people in Langley who need our help.”

Some of this year’s festival proceeds will go to help provide a new Pediatric Isolation Unit as part of the Emergency Room renovations at Langley Memorial Hospital. Langley Central Rotary has committed to a multi-year pledge of $100,000 towards the project.

Read More: Wine tasters’ festival back in Langley

Past Langley Central Rotary president Paul Coltura helped fellow Rotarian Stew McIvor line up sponsors who contributed a combined total of nearly $50,000 in cash and in-kind help towards the festival’s success.

Coltura, who served as treasurer and a director of the LMH Foundation for nine years, encouraged sponsorship participation with more than words and pleading phone calls: he also represents BDO Canada, the festival’s major sponsor for the past decade, and this year again a $15,000 contributor to the cause.

McIvor praised all of the sponsors who participated, and those who committed to joining the effort for next year’s festival.

“They don’t have to do this,” McIvor pointed out. “There’s a real sense of community out there. They really want to help.”

Wayne Crossen, who was in charge of bring wine merchants on board to re-establish the festival this year had good words for all the 38 vendors who brought dozens upon dozens of different wines to the table, as well as the local restaurants that brought their own special culinary experiences for the enjoyment of festival-goers.

“We thought this might be more difficult,” Crossen said, alluding to the festival’s absence last year after a solid 27-year annual run. “But there was a lot of enthusiasm for our return.”

“When we started this in 1989,” Crossen said, “we were almost the only ones, but now we have lots of competition… but many of the wine vendors told me this is still one of the best-run festivals in the province, and they were telling me this year that this is the most organized one they’ve been at.”

Much of the organizational genius behind the festival comes from architect and Langley Central Rotarian Bill Evans, who put in more than his share of the thousands of hours of work that went into the months of planning for this year’s festival.

As in past years, Evans drew up the plans which allowed the orderly arrangement of 38 wine merchants, restaurants and other food providers, entertainers, discreet sanitary stations, orderly waste removal, and all of the special needs and services that each required to ensure a happy experience for everyone participating.

“You have to find a way to arrange all of it so that the crowds don’t feel crowded,” said Evans. “It’s a success if everyone goes away feeling like they had a good time.”

Smiles and laughter around the coat check as the ladies received their roses at the end of the evening – not to mention the $50,000 raised for charity — suggest that Evans and the rest of the festival organizing team achieved success once again.

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