Riverbank Cheese and Wine Exposition concentrates its flavor

RIVERBANK -- Slowly the flavor of the Cheese and Wine Exposition is changing.

Increasingly, the focus is on quality rather than quantity.

"We've compacted the event area, so there's no duplication of products. Rather than six blocks, it's four blocks," said Riverbank Rotary Club President Chris Elswick.

There are other changes too. Art will be added to the Cheese Pavilion, so it will be the Cheese and Art Pavilion. Also, venders will be segregated into, for example, a crafts area and a commercial area. Food will be spread throughout the event.

While the exposition is in its 31st year and has become a tradition in Riverbank, it's still new to its Rotary Club organizers, who took over the event last year.

Riverbank's Chamber of Commerce organized the event until it disbanded last year, divided over whether to ditch the time-consuming event or focus solely on it. Since then, a new chamber was founded that does not participate in the exposition.

'A learning experience'

Rotary had three months to put together the event last year.

"Last year was a learning experience. We were very reactionary," Elswick said. "But we loved some of the changes we did, like putting the wine tasting in a tent."

Rotary has been organizing this year's event all year. Wine tasting again will be held in an outside tent, separated from child-friendly cheese tasting.

Elswick said Rotary members are encouraged by last year's turnout and expect more this year.

"Last year was an overwhelming success. It almost caught us off guard. We were concerned starting so late in the game. People were impressed that we put it together as well as we did. People even wrote us afterwards to tell us how great it was," Elswick added.

Luanne Bain, the city administrative assistant, figures the event will draw more people from outside the city this year because the Crossroads shopping center has familiarized folks with Riverbank.

"People will think, 'Hey, we can do some shopping and go to the Cheese and Wine.' The shopping center will bring more people in," she said.

The event already draws a large crowd, as many as 60,000 people, Elswick said.

"Even at 5 at night, when we're trying to close things down, we're still bumping into people," Bain said.

Bee staff writer Eve Hightower can be reached at ehightower@modbee.com or 578-2382.