PARKERSBURG - The Taste of Parkersburg, which will be 5-11 p.m. today in downtown Parkersburg, got off to a slightly different start from previous years on Friday night at the Blennerhassett Hotel.
The Friday night wine education seminar, which has been a fixture the night before the Taste, underwent a change in focus this year, becoming a four-course Italian dinner with five different wines to enjoy, all from Italy.
Robert Cavanaugh, a Vienna native and owner of Adventure Wines, has been offering the wine seminar since its inception and also took the lead at Friday's dinner, presenting information about the wines featured at the event.
Josie Tomsik, center, with the Blennerhassett Hotel, pours a serving of wine for Joan and Ray Thor, seated left and right, of Christiansburg, Va., at Friday night’s Taste of Parkersburg Wine Dinner. (Photos by Wayne Towner)
Robert Cavanaugh, a Vienna native and owner of Adventure Wines, discusses the wide range of Italian wines available during the Taste of Parkersburg Wine Dinner held Friday night at the Blennerhassett Hotel. The Taste of Parkersburg will be 5-11 p.m. today in downtown Parkersburg and is expected to draw thousands of attendees. (Photo by Wayne Towner )
A wine dinner held Friday night at the Blennerhassett Hotel as a preliminary to today’s Taste of Parkersburg was sold out. The Taste of Parkersburg will be 5-11 p.m. today in downtown Parkersburg. (Photo by Wayne Towner)
Cavanaugh said the educational programs have been well attended and received in the past, but organizers wanted to go in a different direction this year.
"We wanted to do a sit-down wine dinner, where we do a little less education on the grapes and a little bit more of integrating the wine and the food together, because that's how it's meant to be enjoyed, with food," he said.
Cavanaugh has been participating in the Taste and its related events for six years.
"I continue to be very impressed with the amount of enthusiasm that the people in Parkersburg and the area show toward good wine and good food events," he said.
Joan and Ray Thor of Christiansburg, Va., have been traveling to the Mid-Ohio Valley for the Taste of Parkersburg for several years. They discovered the Blennerhassett Hotel about 15 years ago while traveling through the area and have enjoyed frequent return visits, Joan Thor said.
She has relatives in Ohio and said Parkersburg- and the Blennerhassett- have provided a perfect midway meeting point for family visits and holidays.
"We have really, really enjoyed it," she said of the couple's visits to the Blennerhassett and their attendance of the Taste. "The people and this hotel, it's fantastic."
The Thors said they are surprised but pleased with the growth they've seen in the Taste and the changes they have observed in downtown Parkersburg during their visits. Prior to Friday night's dinner, they also visited the Downtown Farmers' Market in its new location at Point Park Marketplace during the afternoon. They said they enjoy returning each year to see what is new and different.
Rowland and Marcie Hill of Ritchie County were also attending Friday's wine dinner. They planned to participate in today's Taste event as volunteer wine pourers.
The couple has participated in the wine seminars in previous years and also attend the regular wine dinners offered at the Blennerhassett whenever they can.
"The wine dinners have been fantastic," Rowland Hill said, adding he was anticipating "less educating and more eating and drinking" at Friday's event.
The Hills have also enjoyed how the Taste has grown each year.
"It's wonderful that it keeps growing, that's perfect," Marcie Hill said. "That's what Parkersburg needs, to draw people downtown and to things downtown."
Following the dinner, an "Extra Pour" event was held Friday night at the Blennerhassett where additional Italian wines were featured. While attendance at the dinner was limited- and sold out- the pour event was open to more people and drew additional visitors, according to Blennerhassett Hotel general manager Cecil Childress.
Childress said the weekend got off to a positive start with Friday's dinner and he is hopeful the good weather forecast for today will mean good attendance for this evening's Taste. As the past week progressed and the event grew closer with better and better weather anticipated, he said ticket sales have been brisk.
"We're absolutely blessed in that regard," he said looking forward to tonight's event.
The Taste of Parkersburg will officially run from 5-11 p.m. today at the Blennerhassett Hotel and Bicentennial Plaza on Market Street in downtown Parkersburg, offering a variety of food and beverages provided by local and regional businesses for sampling during the evening.
Tickets are $18 at the gate. Admission includes a complimentary Taste logo wine or beer glass for sampling. Once admitted to the event, visitors will purchase $1 tickets that can be used with food or wine vendors at the Taste for specific foods and beverages, ranging from $1 to $5 in value.
The food vendors will be serving food until 9:30 p.m. and the wine and beer vendors will serve until 10 p.m. The entertainment will end at 11 p.m. tonight. This year's entertainers will include the Smoot House Band, Dwight Lennox and Latin Project
Even before Friday's dinner got underway, Cavanaugh said organizers were looking to the future. The 2015 event will be the 10th anniversary for Taste of Parkersburg and ideas are being considered for new activities and events in connection with that milestone.
"We're going to spend a lot of time seeing what we can improve on an already-good model," he said.