Winterfest ‘spreading its wings’ for 10th anniversary

Bedell Cellars winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbch will host a barrel tasting as part of Long Island Winterfest. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Bedell Cellars winemaker Rich Olsen-Harbich will host a barrel tasting as part of Long Island Winterfest. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Winterfest 2017 is shaping up to be about much more than live music and wine tastings.

For its 10th anniversary, the event is expanding to provide visitors with a wider range of offerings and experiences. 

“There’s still tons of wine, tons of music, but we had a lot of different participants jump on board this year,” said Kristen Reyes of Hotel Indigo East End in Riverhead, who helped plan the multi-week event.

In years past, Winterfest was principally a music festival designed to showcase local artists and attract tourists to the East End. Last year, wineries affiliated with the festival began moving away from concerts, a trend that will continue in 2017.

East End Arts director Pat Snyder, who has helped run Winterfest in the past, said the event is now “spreading its wings.”

Ms. Snyder explained that because state funding to support the event dried up, she reached out to businesses to see if they would support the festival this year.

Rather than focus purely on music, event organizers this year set up a committee of a dozen East End businesses to generate new ideas.

“We put the word out to all the participants,” Ms. Snyder said. “It was overwhelming that they wanted Winterfest to continue.”

“It’s not an overriding music festival,” she said. “It’s more of a marketing tool for all the businesses on the East End so that everyone can benefit.”

In addition to the traditional live music and wine tastings, Winterfest 2017 will offer an eclectic mix of events, including poetry readings and dance performances. For the first time, bus tours — called the Winterfest Experience — will be available to ferry visitors between events and back to their hotels at Hyatt Place East End or Hotel Indigo.


GIVEAWAY: WIN A TRIP TO THE KICKOFF PARTY AND A STAY AT HOTEL INDIGO


Planned bus trips include a vineyard concert, private wine tastings with winemakers, three-course dinners in Riverhead and a behind-the-scenes tour of a local brewery.

“People really love the idea of getting on a bus and being able to experience what Winterfest is offering,” Ms. Reyes said.

Winterfest will kick off Friday, Feb. 24, with a party from 7 to 10 p.m. at Hotel Indigo East End, featuring 30-plus vendors and live music by the East End Trio and Gail Storm. Restaurants, vineyards and breweries will offer special tastings and participating vendors will offer items in a chinese auction.

“It’ll be a great time to have face-to-face time with our participants,” Ms. Reyes said. “We’re just excited to see the event, this whole festival, is continuing after 10 years.”

Winterfest 2017 will run from Feb. 24 to March 19. For tickets and information about participating vendors, concert schedules, bus tours or the kick-off party, visit longislandwinterfest.com.

psquire@timesreview.com