Organizers of food and drink festivals around the state can learn a bit from the people behind the fledgling Adirondack Wine & Food Festival. Not only do they provide a steady stream of helpful pre-event news releases, they actually follow up to let the public know how things turned in all sorts of categories out rather than literally folding their tents and disappearing.
Here is an event analysis provided by Sasha Pardy, one of the movers and shakers behind the event and co-owner of the Adirondack Winery. Because it is so unusually detailed, I'm taking the unusual step -- for me -- of providing the entire document as distributed:
LAKE GEORGE -- Adirondack Festivals LLC is proud to announce that nearly 6,000 tickets were purchased to the 3rd annual Adirondack Wine & Food Festival, held June 24th & 25th at Charles R Wood Festival Commons in Lake George.
“I am excited to say that our third annual event had our highest ticket sales and attendance numbers to date. We sold nearly 6,000 tickets to the Adirondack Wine & Food Festival and had more than 5,700 people in attendance at the event over the two days. We also broke all past attendance records at the Festival Commons.” said Adirondack Festivals owner Sasha Pardy. The 2016 festival had set the previous record for the space, with about 5,200 tickets sold and 5,000 people in attendance.
“We are particularly proud of this achievement, as our 2016 festival was designated as an official 'Taste New York' event and we received a $65,000 grant from Governor Cuomo’s New York Craft Beverage Initiative, on top of some local funding, to help promote the festival. We were concerned that although we were granted $35,000 in funding from Lake George Village, Town and Warren County this year, that without the state fundin, we might not be able to reach the 6,000 tickets goal we had set out for this year. Thankfully, we could reach our goals on a much tighter marketing budget,” explained Pardy, adding “I think it shows the impact positive attendee feedback and word of mouth can have and that we made the right marketing choices with our budget this year.”
“The weather helped us, too,” said festival coordinator Stephanie Howard. “The event is held rain or shine, and the bulk of tickets are typically purchased in the two weeks leading up to the event, as people start to watch the weather. While the forecast for Saturday looked great, attendees may have hesitated on Sunday, as the forecast called for a 50% chance of thunderstorms, but luckily the storms didn’t come until our vendors were packed up and out of the space on Sunday.”
About 64% of people attended Saturday (over 3,600) and 36% attended on Sunday (over 2,100). The vendor list included 24 wineries, four breweries, eight distilleries, three cideries, 26 artisan food vendors, nine food trucks, one local restaurant, six specialty vendors, some sponsor booths, and a weekend full of culinary demonstrations provided by the SUNY Adirondack culinary students. Attendees used their commemorative festival wine glass to sample the hundreds of handcrafted products vendors were showcasing, then had the opportunity to purchase their favorite products to take home with them in a farmer’s market style 'try before your buy' format.
“We had a much better handle on what the Festival Commons could handle capacity-wise this year,” said Pardy. Last year, concerned with hitting capacity on Saturday, Saturday ticket sales were cut off on Friday. “This year, with nearly 90 vendors on the grounds, attendees were spread across more booths, cutting down on lines, so we could sell at-the-door tickets all weekend long, giving everyone a chance to experience all the festival had to offer,” explained Pardy.
Improvements made for this year’s event included adding about 20 more vendors; offering more craft beverage and food option, which cut down attendee lines and increased variety; arranging for several parking lots for attendees and vendors; more covered “take a break” tents offering shade and seating, including popular Adirondack Chair hangout spots provided by Forest Hills Trading Company; a water misting tent to cool down; a dedicated kids’ activity tent provided by Fun Spot; and, water provided by Lake George Premium Brand for two-day ticket holders and designated drivers.
“We just completed our attendee survey and the reviews are very positive, with 96% of attendees saying they will attend again if they are able. It looks like we solved the most important issues of years’ past,” said Pardy. “Our vendors worked very hard to prepare for and serve attendees; and every vendor we’ve talked to so far has given us great feedback about event attendance, our level of organization, and their sales for the weekend and they plan to join us again next year."
"Our festival gives them exposure to an audience they may never encounter elsewhere,” said Howard, adding that vendors come from all over New York State, with a few from neighboring states. To encourage support of these local small producers, the Adirondack Wine & Food Festival offers a “Purchase Drop-Off & Pick-Up Tent” where attendees could drop off for storage the purchases they make throughout the day to be picked up when they left the festival. “This service gets rave reviews and is extremely well utilized,” she added.
As the designated beneficiary of the festival, the SUNY Adirondack Foundation provided volunteer staff during festival weekend and will receive a portion of the event’s ticket sales. Additionally, SUNY Adirondack raised funds through sales of raffle tickets, water bottles, festival T-shirts and baked goods throughout the weekend. The SUNY Adirondack Culinary Arts Program led the busy Culinary Tent all weekend long offering several cooking demonstrations performed by students and alumni each day.
“Our festival brings an important demographic to the Lake George region. Our attendees are primarily females with buying power and include younger age demographics than most Lake George events. This festival draws not only local attendees, but people from all over the country that stay multiple nights,” said Pardy. “The results of our attendee survey show that this festival is important to local tourism economy. We are proud to report that 49% of our attendees stayed one to 14 nights in the region, with the majority staying two nights. And, with 91% of attendees reporting that they either planned their trip specifically for, or chose their dates based on, the Adirondack Wine & Food Festival, we estimate the festival generated 3,380 room nights for the Lake George region. "Additionally, our attendees have a bit more spending money than the average tourists, with 53% of attendees reporting household incomes of at least $75,000 a year,” said Pardy.
Local businesses saw the benefits of the Wine & Food Fest as well, with 90% of attendees reporting they ate at a local restaurant and 75% shopped and visited local attractions. “From our data, we can confidently, estimate the Adirondack Wine & Food Festival generated a $1 million economic impact to our region,” added Pardy. The 4th annual Adirondack Wine & Food Festival is scheduled for June 23rd & 24th, 2018, and will once again be held at Charles R. Wood Festival Commons. 2018 tickets will go on sale in Fall 2017.
• Go here to visit the Capital Region Brew Trail
• Go here to visit Dowd On Drinks
• Go here to visit Dowd's New York Wines Notebook