Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Michaela Daly
For the 11th year in a row, wine, live music, food, and art will pack Main Street in Palestine on the first weekend of October.
Fourteen wineries from throughout Illinois will be in Palestine on Oct. 5 and 6 for the 11th annual Wine and Art Festival. More than 2,500 hundred people are expected to attend this year’s festival, according to Jim Ellis and Susan Goodwine, members of the committee that plans the festival. It is planned to be the largest festival yet, with more wineries and vendors than past years.
“It [the festival] grows every year,” said Ellis, who owns a framing store in downtown Palestine.
The newest addition to the winery selection is Sleepy Creek Vineyard from Fairmount, Illinois. Many of the wineries that are on board for this year are from the southern Illinois area and also travel to other, larger wine tasting festivals. However, despite Palestine’s secluded area, many of the wineries make just as much money at the Wine and Arts Festival as they do at others.
“Several of the wineries that come here also go to Starved Rock which is a huge festival because of where it’s located,” Ellis said.
The goal of the festival is to bring people to Palestine to help promote the town and bring in extra business to local shops and stores.
“It’s a different group of people that we’re exposing to our community in hopes that they’ll come back,” said Goodwine.
Most of the profit from the festival is put toward community projects such as Fort LaMotte, local art buildings, and parks. This year’s profit is expected to be put toward new playground equipment for the Palestine park. Another small portion of the profit is used to put on next years festival.
The atmosphere of the Wine and Art Festival is described as casual and comfortable. People in the past have spent the entire day wine tasting, shopping, and eating from both local and out of town food vendors. Although wine tasting is the biggest attraction to the festival, food and art vendors also thrive at the festival.
“The larger the crowd gets, the better the vendors do,” Ellis said.
The art that is sold at the festival is limited to ‘fine arts, fine crafts’. Most everything is handmade and ranges from homemade soap to paintings to baskets and jewelry. Every year, the arts and craft vendor numbers seems to increase.
“We must be doing something right because I’ve gotten four requests this year from art vendors that have never been here before, asking if they can come to the festival,” Goodwine said.
As well as arts, food is also kept at a higher scale. Things like hot dogs are not prohibited, but are discouraged.
“We try to get people to do things that are a little unusual,” said Ellis of the food. “If our community garden does well this year we may have a salsa and chip booth.”
Live music is also being lined up to play during the festivities. Although one of the former bands has disbanded, a favorite from last year, Three, is expected to return.
Another unique aspect to the festival in comparison to other wine tasting festivals is the ticket style. Instead of selling tickets for a limited amount of tastings, one ticket allows a person unlimited tasting for the whole day.
“They [the customers] probably spend more money at the food vendors and wineries and that sort of thing, because aren’t spending it all on the tickets,” Ellis said.
The unique system of ticketing works well for the wineries and other businesses, and is not expected to be changed for future years. General admission to the festival is free, and tasting tickets can be purchased in advance or at the gates on the day of the festival. Advanced tickets are $11.50 online and tickets at the gate are $15. One ticket allows tasting for the entire day as well as a commemorative tasting glass, which can be used to taste the different wines during the festival.
The Wine and Arts Festival is considered an adult event due to the presence of alcohol. However, children are neither encouraged nor discouraged to attend. The Palestine Development Association, a non-profit organization, sponsors the event.