By Barrett Mohrmann
Thousands converged on Riverfront Park Saturday with glasses in hand, ready for hours of music and tasting at the third annual Lynchburg Beer and Wine Festival.
The event draws brewers and attendees from across the country.
“Hotels have filled up,” said Kim Jennings, an organizer for the event. “It’s not just for local people.”
The Lynchburg area is home to many wineries and breweries. While wine festivals are plentiful, festival organizers noticed a need to combine the beverages together for a daylong celebration.
“It was just something Lynchburg didn’t have,” Jennings said. “It was very well received.”
Since 2010, the event has grown by thousands each year. Jennings said she expected 8,000 to 10,000 attendees Saturday.
“We’re running out of real estate,” Jennings said. “You can’t grow much more.”
Representatives from more than 20 wineries and breweries arrived with bottles and heavy kegs. Even with that many, lines were long to sample the drinks.
“It’s been so much fun to be here,” said Lee John, owner of the Apocalypse Brewing Company.
John and her husband are working to establish a brewpub, a combined restaurant and brewery,in Forest. They hope to open Dec 21, the day some people believe the world will end based on the ancient Mayan calendar.
“Let’s celebrate the end of the world together with good beer,” John quipped.
Attendees who purchased a sampling admission ticket Saturday were given a green wristband limiting them to 10 beer samples. However, wine samples were endless (within reason). Connoisseurs flocked to wine tasting tables to swirl, sniff and sip.
“We love to do wine festivals,” said John Glass, an employee of Leo Grande Vineyards and Winery. “It helps get our name out there.”
Glass said the winery has offered wine for nearly 10 years. Fragile Italian grapes are spread out across the15 acres along Wingfield Drive in Goode.
“We grow some grapes that other wineries won’t even attempt,” Glass said.
Visitors not looking to drink had an opportunity to explore the works of many local artisans and craftsmen. Bands including Dragonfly, the Love Canon String Band and The Jangling Reinharts offered music throughout the day. Some people listened from chairs and blankets. Others danced in front of the stage. The dancing seemed to pick up as more people sampled the beer and wine. Designated drivers were offered free water and sodas, and local police officers attended to ensure everyone returned home safely.