Some guests getting a bite to eat at the Parksville Uncorked Wine and Food Festival Swirl event at the Beach Club Resort on Friday. — NEWS file photo

Parksville Uncorked festival celebrates decade of showcasing B.C. wine, beer

Organizers wanted to come up with something that ‘would create a buzz’ in the community

This year, Parksville Uncorked Wine and Food Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary in Parksville.

The event runs March 8-11 at Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort and Conference Centre and at the Beach Club Resort. Each year, there is a beer event and a wine event (each alternates between the two resorts), winemakers’ dinners at each resort, followed by a brunch on the final day.

This year, the Beach Club Resort is hosting Untapped, the beer event, Thursday, March 8. On Friday, March 9, Tigh-Na-Mara will be hosting the wine event, Swirl.

On March 10, both resorts will be hosting winemakers’ dinners and on March 11, Tigh-Na-Mara will be hosting the Bubbles and Brunch event.

Paul Drummond, Tigh-Na-Mara general manager said when the festival was created 10 years ago, the hope was that the event would grow.

Uncorked began 10 years ago during the recession, he said. At the time, Drummond said, he and the general managers of the Beach Club and Sunrise Ridge went to the City of Parksville about creating an event.

“We talked about coming up with a different event; something that would create a buzz,” Drummond said. “The intention was to always sort of grow it, almost like a mini Cornucopia like they do up in Whistler.”

Ian Lane, food and beverage director with the Beach Club said the 2018 event will be his fifth Uncorked festival. Lane said over his years working on the festival the size of Uncorked has stayed relatively the same.

“A lot of these events that are in Victoria or Vancouver are so large,” said Lane, who is attending a wine event in Vancouver this weekend. “That has well over 100 vendors and over 1,000 wines at it. It’s not B.C.; it’s worldwide.”

He said by keeping Uncorked smaller, it helps both the resorts and the vendors.

“Each vendor, when they get to make contact with the guests, they get to make significant contact,” said Lane, adding that, for guests, meeting a smaller number of vendors makes it easier to remember the vendors.

“Ours (Uncorked) is strictly a B.C. focus,” Lane said. “The B.C. wineries and breweries don’t get lost in international product.”

One of those local breweries is Mount Arrowsmith Brewing Company, which was just preparing to open at this time last year and didn’t yet have a product for guests to try.

“It was a fun event last year not pouring any beers. It’s going to be a lot of fun going there (this year) and pouring beers for everyone,” said co-owner Dan Farrington.

This year, the local brewery will be going into the event with product and with a little more recognition. In October of 2017, Mount Arrowsmith Brewing Company received the Brewery of the Year award at the B.C. Beer Awards.

“There was obviously a lot of hype before opening up in town,” Farrington said. ‘There was already a bunch of people who knew about us last year and a whole pile that, obviously, didn’t know about us. Everybody is going to know about us now.”

For Bryan Stokes, Tigh-Na-Mara’s food and beverage director, seeing those up-and-coming local vendors is exciting.

“We’re all excited like it’s our child, watching them getting interviewed (at the festival). We’re all so happy for them,” Stokes said.

Stokes, who has been involved with “six or seven” Uncorked festivals, said he’s noticed that as the popularity of craft beer grows, the tickets for Untapped begin to sell faster. He said as the festival has grown, there has been more of an emphasis on local breweries and wineries.

With that, Lane said, he’s seen more and more of the smaller, local vendors wanting to be involved in Uncorked.

“Even until four or five years ago, half the breweries that attended were pretty big players,” Lane said. “Whereas now, we’re getting more and more of the true craft breweries and there are more local breweries on the Island that take part than ever before.”

The wineries are a bit different, Lane said. The B.C. wine industry is still driven by Okanagan wineries, he said, but there have been more Island wineries that attend Uncorked now.

While a number of vendors are local to the Island, Drummond said, the goal was to get guests from out of the region.

Drummond said each year, the event draws in a number of people from the Lower Mainland or Victoria who come to Parksville for the weekend.

“For ourselves, a lot of it was reaching out to the Vancouver markets and trying to get them over to Parksville and the area and spend some of the tourist dollars; help with the occupancy, spend some money in the gas stations and local stores,” Drummond said.

Stokes said Uncorked isn’t about driving business to the resorts, but to bring awareness to the region.

Blain Sepos, executive director of the Parksville Qualicum Beach Tourism Association said Parksville Uncorked does attract visitors who stay in the local resorts and explore the communities “in the shoulder season when we need it most.”

“It has also been an excellent opportunity to host travel media who not only share the festival with their audiences but also all the attractions they explore during their visit,” Sepos said.

Over the years, Parksville Uncorked has been featured in numerous publications.

For more information on Uncorked, visit www.parksvilleuncorked.com.

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