Rebranded Harvest Celebration returns in April

sbirkenmeyer@vagazette.com

The inaugural autumn Harvest Celebration drew nearly 3,000 attendees in 2015, and it drew similar fanfare the following year.

But the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance saw an opportunity to bolster the area’s spring event lineup, so the celebration is returning with a new name during a different season as the Williamsburg Taste Festival arrives in April.

“Moving it to spring is a pretty major strategic decision,” said chamber president and CEO Karen Riordan, and who noted the festival provides a major event to complement the chamber’s Williamsburg Spring Arts initiative. “We didn’t really have an anchor.”

It’s also part of an effort to elevate the local food and beverage scene in an area known for its history rather than its culinary opportunities.

“I think it’s just a new window into our community,” Riordan said. “The local community loves it. It’s just a chance to go out and celebrate the assets that we already have.”

Like it’s predecessor, the Taste Festival is operated by an informal group of volunteers. Events span various restaurants such as Le Yaca, Culture Cafe and Waypoint Grill as well as breweries such as Billsburg and the Amber Ox.

New additions include a “culinary village” on North Boundary Street, where attendees can try food from various restaurants and growers alongside drinks from members of the Virginia Tasting Trail. The nearby Stryker Center will host several lectures about food and beverage trends and topics. Kids will also have activities to enjoy.

“It’s a gazillion events under one tent,” Riordan said.

The festival’s final day features a Sunday brunch envisioned by chefs such as the Fat Canary’s Tom Power Jr. and David Everett of the Trellis. A “beer university” closes the festival as a panel of brewmasters discuss their processes and products while attendees try samples.

Riordan said the chamber plans to launch the festival’s website in mid-January. Tickets will be available online; pricing is still being determined, but Riordan said the cost of admission to various events spans a wide range.

“We have some events that are really designed to be affordable,” Riordan said. “Others, they’re going to be at the high end.”

Riordan said the festival is an opportunity to experience something entertaining and different in Williamsburg.

“We wanted to have a little bit of fun with this, and we didn’t want to take ourselves too seriously,” she said. “This is just a great food festival.”

Want to go?

The Williamsburg Taste Festival runs April 19-22. Tickets are expected to go on sale in mid-January. For updates, check out visitwilliamsburg.com/williamsburg-taste-festival.

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

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