By Joe Johnson
SAVOR Blowing Rock Wine and Food Festival will be returning this year from May 2nd to May 5th to showcase the greatest food, wine, craft beer, and distilled spirits the Blowing Rock and High Country regions have to offer.
“It started as the Blue Ridge Wine & Food Festival back in 2007. In 2016 we changed it from Blue Ridge Wine & Food Festival to ‘SAVOR’ and we’ve been SAVOR now for 3 years,” said Charles Hardin, President & CEO of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce, “It started as a North Carolina wine festival. Over the years it has evolved into also having craft beer and distilled spirits. SAVOR has evolved and had various different components over the years. But now, this year, we are going to move the main Saturday tasting event to Main Street. We’re going to close Main Street from Sunset Drive to Morris Street and make it pedestrian-only. We’re going to go back to our basic, original wine-dominant focus with food. We will still have craft beer but they will be done by partner businesses in town. We will also have distilled spirits featured at partner businesses in town. But our main event on Saturday will be focused on wine.”
However, SAVOR Blowing Rock is not solely about Saturday’s main wine event, as Hardin explained, “We will still keep our TASTE! event on Thursday night, which is the restaurant showcase event we’ve had since the very beginning. This year we will have the TASTE! event at Chetola, in their big event tent, which they put up last year. We will still have our reserve tasting this year on the lawn of The Inn at Ragged Gardens, which features really high-end reserve wines and high-end food.
We will also keep our educational component, which we’ve had from the beginning; seminars about wine, beer, and distilled spirit pairings with food and some other topics. We will also keep our grilling classes which have been very popular in the past few years where we teach people grilling tricks and how to cook certain foods on the grill and well as pairings of these foods with wine and/or beer.”
SAVOR Blowing Rock will be held on Main Street this year, which is a departure from previous years’ SAVOR festivities. The Blowing Rock Town Council approved the change of location for SAVOR Blowing Rock to Main Street due to popular demand, “Back in 2010, we did a big street event downtown where we closed Main Street from Sunset Drive all the way to Chestnut Drive. It was called ‘Heritage Days’ and we put on a very nice event celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway and its importance to our town,” said Hardin, “Since that time we have had lots of people ask us ‘Oh, please put another event on Main Street!’ We’ve even had town council folks ask us to do that. While we’ve looked at moving some of our other events, like Art in the Park, we just don’t feel like we can make it work out there. We decided to pitch moving SAVOR to Main Street to the town council in January, and they were all in favor! And of course with our new Mayview Plaza at Laurel Lane there, that the Chamber and the Village Foundation did last year, we’re going to use that as the centerpiece for the event this year. There will be live music throughout the day in the Plaza, and hopefully into the evening where people can dance! We’re hoping to develop a real nice, downtown, festive feel this year.”
The rationale for moving the SAVOR Blowing Rock events to Main Street is simple, said Hardin, “Merchants felt like, in the past, the event has been put down in the Maple Street parking lot, kind of out-of-sight and out-of-mind, and it pulled all of the energy down there. It was separated from Main Street and they didn’t feel like they were getting anything from it. We feel like this year, if we put all the action up on Main Street, we won’t have anybody thinking we’re drawing everything down to the Maple Street parking lot. We’ll be giving up that parking lot in exchange for the parking spaces on Main Street; there’s still quite a good positive net of more parking spaces by doing it this way. Plus, we will have overcome the big issue we’ve had in the past of consumers coming into town and not knowing that this festival even existed or was even going on! So, now it will be right there in their face on Main Street and they will know that it is here.”
“Most of these events take 75 to 100 volunteers to actually make them work,” said Hardin, “So we are very dependent on our local volunteers and we would love to talk to anybody that’s interested in or would like to work for a few hours in the SAVOR event. Having it on Main Street will require more presence because we don’t have walls around Main Street and we have to protect the ABC-zoned area; so that’s going to chew up even more volunteer hours.”
SAVOR Blowing Rock will begin on Thursday, May 2 with the culinary compilation “TASTE!” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. showcasing food from 18 local restaurants from the Blowing Rock and High Country regions. Friday will feature the first Outdoor Grilling Class on Sunset Drive from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. teaching grilling tricks as well as beer and wine-pairing options for grilled foods. Saturday will feature 5 different events including an Outdoor Grilling Class from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., the 1st seating of the Reserve Wine Tasting from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. which includes a tasting of extremely rare and high-end wines from some of the best vineyards in the world, followed by the main event: The Grand Wine Tasting on Main Street from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The Grand Wine Tasting (now known as Vintner’s Village) has been enhanced with a focus on high-end wine tastings and local fare, paired with live music. The 2nd seating of the Reserve Wine Tasting and a final Outdoor Grilling Class will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at their respective locations on Saturday. Finally, SAVOR Blowing Rock will conclude this year’s festivities with Gospel, Grits & Gravy, a down home southern breakfast featuring soulful live music, biscuits, grits, various artisanal meats, and flights of gravy located at the Chetola Resort Event Tent from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 5th.
For more information about SAVOR Blowing Rock, its events, and ticket prices visit https://savorblowingrock.com/