When Labor Day weekend ends and the vast sea of tourists and summer residents begin to trickle home, Island businesses and restaurants feel the pinch. With so much of the Island’s consumer population disappearing, it isn’t always easy to keep turning a profit. For some, the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival might be the solution. Established six years ago, the Food and Wine Festival gives restaurants and businesses the chance to continue their commercial success into the shoulder season.
The festival begins on the evening of Thursday, Oct. 17, with an event called Fresh Off the Farm. The reception, held in the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury, will combine fresh food, fine wine and live music to raise money for Island Grown Schools, the festival’s primary charity. A part of the greater Island Grown Initiative, Island Grown School seeks to connect Island children with local farms by educating students about healthy food options and by integrating those options into meals at school.
“The theme of the festival is farm to table,” said Robin Jones, one of the festival’s event planners. “We want to teach about the importance of local, organic food.”
Last year the Food and Wine Festival took a hiatus to regroup, restructure and review participant feedback. The most significant change this year will be that Friday’s “grand tasting” will take place in Edgartown to generate more visitors. And, according to committee member Christina Cook, the festival’s committee was expanded to nine members so as to better distribute the workload of organizing the event. The year off allowed the new committee some extra time to revamp the festival.
“In general, if you’re running something without a lot of people helping, everyone tends to get pretty burned out,” Ms. Cook said. “As painful as it was to decide to take a year off, we felt it was better to regroup and find people who cared about the event.”
According to Ms. Jones, the Food and Wine Festival is unique in that it is smaller and more intimate than other food and wine festivals. At the grand tasting, guests will have the opportunity to discuss the nuances of fine cuisine with the chefs and vintners who prepared it. “Lots of food and wine festivals are too large and over the top to feel like you’ve made a real connection,” Ms. Jones said. “This will be a very intimate and high quality event. It’s the kind of festival where you get to have very detailed conversations with the chefs.”
Whereas previous years’ events have drawn as many as 400 visitors, Ms. Cook said she would like to see this year’s festival attract upwards of 600 visitors. Tickets went on sale on July 1 and, according to Ms. Cook, Friday afternoon’s Sommelier Throw Down is almost sold out. The Food and Wine Festival is sponsored by Island businesses such as the Harbor View Hotel and the Vineyard Gazette and proceeds from the event will benefit the Island Grown Initiative.
“I’m just so excited about everything,” Ms. Cook said. “The whole thing has come together really well.”
For more information and tickets, visit mvfoodandwine.com.