Organizers of the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival are happy to report that attendance jumped more than 12% – to some 12,000 people – for their fourth-annual event, which was held November 17-19 in the elegant 40,000-square-foot Steelcase Ballroom inside DeVos Place. That’s four consecutive years of growth – in terms of both attendees and exhibitors.
“Grand Rapids is the perfect size city for this type of event,” says Henri Boucher, show producer. “It comes alive because it’s such a dynamic downtown – an area that is the envy of all of Michigan. We’re proud to host this event, which is the true kickoff to the holiday season.”
Considered the largest food and beverage festival in the state and one of the premier events of its kind in the Midwest, the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival has shown steady growth since its first year in 2008. That year, some 8000 people attended the festival. In 2009, organizers welcomed a 30% increase in the number of exhibitors and beverages, and twice as many restaurants – welcoming nearly 10,000 guests throughout the three-day festival. Close to 11,000 attendees were reported in 2010.
“This fourth annual event once again exceeded our expectations,” says Richard MacKeigan, Regional General Manager, DeVos Place, DeVos Performance Hall & Van Andel Arena. “We believe we are in the early stages of an event that will be around for a long, long, time. Comments from exhibitors, sponsors and most importantly guests have determined that 2011 was a grand success. The feeling seems to be that the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer and Food Festival is another great reason why Grand Rapids is such a great city to live and work in.”
The three-day festival spotlights more than a dozen restaurants; hundreds of wineries, breweries, distilleries and thousands of their products; countless local businesses; and the area’s leading industry experts who deliver countless seminars, workshops and demonstrations at no added cost to attendees. Dates for 2012 are moved up a week, to November 8-10.
“We are proud to produce the finest wine festival in the Midwest,” says show manager, Cathleen McDonald. “It comes together because of the great exhibitors – wineries, breweries distributors, restaurants and retailers – that we have the pleasure of working with.”
COMMENTS FROM EXHIBITORS
“The event far exceeded our expectations,” says Brad Dahlhofer of the Michigan-based B. Nektar Meadery, who made his first appearance at the festival this year. “The response to our Zombie Killer cherry cyser was off the charts. We'll definitely be there next year!”
“What a great way for us to get our name out to the West Michigan community,” says Theresa Arkesteyn of Great Lakes Pierogies, who was also new to the show this year. “The amount of visibility we received exceeded our expectations! We had great time serving our pierogies to the public and had great response from all! Can't wait till next year!!!”
“We received very positive feedback and our products sampled well as we had a consistent line the entire event,” says Jennifer Baranska, representing Buitoni. “Our intention was to target potential Buitoni customers and drive total brand category awareness in the Grand Rapids local market… it was an extremely successful event. I cannot wait until next year.”
“We had a great show and the traffic was super on Friday and Saturday, [with] quality attendees who were fun to talk to and very receptive to tasting,” says Mike Freestone, owner of Good Life Granola, who exhibited in the Riverfront Marketplace for the second consecutive year. “I look forward to being there next year and would love the same spot...two thumbs up!”
COMMENTS FROM ATTENDEES
“I loved the show! A great way to meet innovators and businessmen and women who are bringing outstanding products to Michigan.” ~Rebecca Eyke, editor of Michigan HOME & Lifestyle Magazine
“Thank you, Fred, and Gail Ambrosius, for creating a wonderful and inspiring experience. This seminar was the highlight of our visit!” ~Jennifer Reed, via Facebook
“My family and I had a GREAT time for the third year in a row. Thanks for a memorable experience! Sadly, however, I dropped by beer glass on the way to the car :( It was lovely while it lasted though, nice addition to the usual wine glasses.” ~Kaitlyn Winter, via Facebook
“Had a great time last night and enjoyed all the wine choices I selected.” ~Lisa Baird Karafa, via Facebook
“Dear Grand Rapids International Wine & Food Festival, You were absolutely fantastic tonight!! thank you for the fabulous everything!!” ~Marco Riolo, via Facebook
“Sorry for cutting in front of everybody at the coat check last night I was just so excited.” ~Keith Lefteye Allard, via Facebook
“Went for the wine, but stayed for the beers! What a great time Grand Rapids International Wine & Food Festival!” ~Nick Dionne, via Facebook