Seventeen years ago The Princeton Rotary Club turned beer into wine, and then turned that into hundreds of thousands of dollars for the community.
Winefest takes place February 1 at Riverside Centre, and tickets are still available for the popular event.
“We used to have a beer garden but it didn’t make much money so we all decided that this was a better thing to bring to the community,” said Judy Short, a longtime Rotarian.
“It’s fun, it gets people out. You can taste all night the different wines from the wineries and there is food to nibble on.”
The event makes about $10,000 per year, but in some years it has exceeded that number.
Winefest started at the Princeton Legion, but soon outgrew that venue and is now held at Riverside Centre on Old Hedley Road.
The club sells approximately 200 tickets each year.
The “perfectly wonderful” aspect of Winefest is the way the community gets involved, said Short.
“It’s very, very well supported.”
Restaurants donate and serve elegant food, while other businesses and individuals contribute draw prizes and items for the silent auction.
“We make a lot of money on the auction.”
This year, as at past events, there will also be a key draw which gives party-goers a chance to win a barbecue or jewelry.
A roulette wheel is being reintroduced in 2020 to give people even more chances to take home a prize.
Winefest has provided some of the Rotary Club’s largest donations to community groups, most recently $30,000 towards Princeton Highway Rescue for a new command truck.
Previously Rotary donated $30,000 to furnish a room in the new tower of Penticton General Hospital, while smaller projects also benefit from the fundraiser.
In 2018 the event raised $17,000 that was used to upgrade every bed at Princeton General Hospital, and fund Little Folks Nursery School, the local Leaders for Literacy program and a wildlife relief group.
Winefest comes at the perfect time in the year, said Short.
“It’s winter and this is the first event that people like to get out to, to just get out for the evening. It’s sort of the kick off for the year, if you want to put it that way.”
In recent years the event has attracted a lot of younger fans, and that’s something the club is excited about.
“We absolutely love it because we are trying to grow our club. Our club used to be 25 members and now it’s 15. We can’t continue to put it on if we don’t have young people.”
Tickets for Winefest are $50 and are available at Thomasina’s, The Winking Pedlar, Century 21 and from any Rotary member. They are also available on line at events.eventzilla.net