LAKE GEORGE The Adirondack Wine and Food Festival is hoping to double attendance with the help of a grant from a state craft-beverage marketing initiative.
The festival was one of the first, and most successful, events at the new Charles R. Wood Park in 2015 in the festival space’s inaugural year, when many events floundered.
The sprawling park, which now has a skate plaza and children’s play area, sits on the site of the former Gaslight Village. Organizers and attendees lauded the venue last year, which made such a festival in Lake George a possibility.
The festival returns for its second showing the last weekend in June — June 25 and 26.
This year it was awarded a $63,000 grant through the Craft Beverage Marketing and Promotion Grant Program, which was started by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The initiative included a $3 million pool of grant awards designed to boost the profile and sales of craft beverages produced in New York.
Festival Coordinator Stephanie Ottino submitted an application for the grant to Empire State Development and had to prove the festival would benefit the Lake George region as well as craft beverage and specialty food producers.
Last year, festival organizers hoped to attract 3,000 attendees. Even with a rainy weekend, ticket sales totaled about 2,500. This year the goal is 5,000 attendees.
Adirondack Festivals LLC, which presents the festival this year with the Taste NY initiative, was formed by Adirondack Winery owners Sasha and Michael Pardy. Adirondack Winery produces its wines in Queensbury and has a tasting room on Canada Street in the village of Lake George.
This year will be “bigger and better,” Sasha Pardy said, as the vendor count swells from 38 last year to 50 this year. Distilleries, wineries, breweries, cideries and artisan food producers will provide samples and full-size products for purchase.
The festival has a Farmers Market Designation from the Department of Agriculture and Markets. That’s why vendors are allowed to sell their products along with the sampling.
Pardy said last year’s feedback marked a need for more food options, so they will also have more including The Boathouse Restaurant and four food trucks.
The SUNY Adirondack Foundation is the beneficiary again for the festival, receiving a portion of ticket sales. The students from the Culinary Arts Program are returning with cooking demonstrations at a special tent.
Pardy said the event was also awarded $15,000 in funding from Warren County occupancy tax, a 4 percent tax on hotel, motel and bed and breakfast stays.
Based on a calculation, Pardy said they’re estimating 1,250 overnight stays in the area as a result of the festival.
“We’re already seeing compelling demographics in tracking our ticket sales, website hits and social media followers,” Pardy said.
That demographic is women ages 25 to 44, which she said are coveted for their buying power.
Plus, statistics show wine tourists as a block tend to have a 16 percent higher income than the average among general tourists, she said.
The increased funding for marketing will allow organizers to broaden the audience they reach with advertising.
Organizers are adding billboards and television ads this year to complement the print, radio and social media advertising efforts in markets throughout the Northeast. According to website traffic and tickets already bought, most people researching the event are from New York City, Long Island, the local region, the Albany Metro region, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
“We really are taking this seriously,” Pardy said. “Our ticket sales and marketing launched in December, but it goes full blast in April.”
Carmella Mastrantoni, owner of the Lake George Olive Co., said last year’s event was great for the local business, which just opened another location in downtown Glens Falls late last year.
“The tent (at the festival) did well, but we also got a lot people who came to the store, too,” Mastrantoni said. “Even in the rain we had an excellent time.”
Mayor Robert Blais praised the winery’s leadership and the fact that it is open all year.
“In one year, the Adirondack Wine and Food Festival has become one of the premier events of the North Country,” Blais said. “It’s everything we hope for with our Festival Commons.”
According to Howard Zemsky, Empire State Development president, CEO and commissioner, the state’s craft beverage industry has an annual economic impact of $27 billion now.
Empire State Development Regional Director Michael Yevoli said Cuomo’s administration has fostered the craft beverage industry’s growth as state laws were modernized and regulations relaxed.
“He sees this as a growth industry,” Yevoli said.