Attendance at last month’s Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival, held November 19 & 20 at DeVos Place, surpassed expectations of event organizers while once again kicking off West Michigan’s holiday season in culinary style.
“The 2021 Festival was a monumental success in several ways,” says Dawn Baker, Festival Manager. “First of all, the attending public showed up en masse and they had a great time! You could see and feel the vibe throughout the entire event. And our attendance was 80 percent of the average of the last three years (2017, 2018 and 2019) – higher than we had hoped for going into the first event of our new show season.”
This year’s Festival was scaled back to a two days (and 11 hours, versus three days and 17 hours the last time it was held in 2019), but there was an abundance of food, beverages, music and educational sessions to entertain the crowd in what Forbes.com named one of a dozen “Fall Wine Festivals In North America You Don’t Want to Miss” in 2019.
“The collective presentation of food and beverages by our area restaurants, producers and distributors was proof of the detailed planning, hard work and commitment by our exhibitors as they faced the ongoing challenges of not only product supply but staffing,” Baker says.
First held in 2008, this Festival is co-produced by ShowSpan and the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority. One of the annual highlights on the opening day is the presentation of the CAA Chairman’s Award, which this year was bestowed upon Steve Heacock, retired CAA Chair and current President/CEO of Grand Rapids Whitewater (which is restoring the namesake rapids to the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids). Steve has been a vital part of developing the Festival over the years and in the past had actually presented the Chairman’s Award to other esteemed leaders and event supporters.
“This truly is a collaborative event and the success is shared by all. Everyone went above and beyond this year to make the Festival a success and it doesn’t go unnoticed,” says Henri Boucher, ShowSpan Vice President and Festival Producer. “We want to thank our vendors, sponsors, volunteers, stage presenters, musical acts, community leaders and our teams at Showspan, DeVos Place and the Convention Arena Authority for the countless hours (days, weeks and months) spent behind the scenes to pull off and promote an event of this magnitude during this challenging time.”
The 15th Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival is schedule for November 17-19, 2022.