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Wine Fest Pours Profits Into Area

Santa Clarita city and economic officials are looking forward to the annual Loose Goose Wine Festival next month. Although only in its third year, the festival makes a strong, positive financial impact on the area. The first event, held in 2005, drew a crowd of 1,500 while the second drew 5,300. That’s an increase of 260 percent. Up to 8,000 people are expected to attend the third annual festival, taking place Oct. 4 to Oct. 7 at Bridgeport Park, , according to event organizers. Last year, the city surveyed nearly 11 percent of festival attendees. What officials found was that 41 percent of festival-goers were visiting Santa Clarita from out of town, some from as far away as Michigan. Of those visitors, 32 percent stayed in hotels or elsewhere. In addition, 27 percent of those surveyed spent up to $100 per day or per party while in Santa Clarita; 11 percent spent up to $250; and 6 percent spent more than $250. Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed also indicated that they’d enjoyed fine-dining and family dining while in the city, and 14 percent said that they’d shopped at local retail outlets. “We certainly saw that the event drew many people from the Southern California region,” Jessica Freude, a film and tourism analyst for the City of Santa Clarita, said. “It’s very beneficial as a visitor attraction event. We’ve certainly seen it flourish and seen it become our best annual event. Our businesses and residents anticipate and look forward to this event.” Santa Clarita may be home to the Amgen Tour of California, the AT & T; Classic and the Cowboy Festival, but there’s no event in the area similar to the Loose Goose Wine Festival, Freude said. And, if founder Peter Goossens is correct, that’s not the only distinction of the wine festival. According to Goossens, Loose Goose is the largest event of its kind in the Greater Los Angeles area, if not all of Southern California. “We’re the largest in many aspects,” Goossens declared. “We’re a four-day festival. There’s no other festival that is four days. We are the largest physically. We spread over about five acres in the park there. In time, we’re the largest or longest. We can say without any problem we’re the largest wine festival in the Los Angeles area at this time.” Goossens credits the expanded number of festival visitors to heeding constructive criticism. This led to him lengthening the duration of the festival from one weekend to four days and offering attractions at night. “Basically I think what we did was make our formula better,” he said. “That was a huge success.” Real estate agent Mike Lebecki has attended the festival since its inception. Last year, Lebecki noticed the difference in turnout. “There was a time that if you went to a function, you saw everyone you know,” the Santa Clarita resident said. “It’s grown so big now that you see a lot of strangers.” Lebecki said that while the first wine festival was extraordinary, it was not well attended. He blames the low turnout on Southern Californians’ ignorance of wine-related culture. “Wine festivals are so new to communities in Los Angeles County,” he said. “They’re huge in Aspen, Santa Ynez and Napa, but, here, it was like bringing filet mignon to someone on a farm. L.A. is good about ordering wine at a restaurant, but they don’t know how to ‘do wine’.” Lebecki said he himself did not know much about wine when he first attended the festival. But, there, he learned how to pick it out. That’s the goal of Goossens, who refers to wine as being “just grape juice.” He said, “Our company is a wine education company. What we’re trying to do is have a very no-nonsense approach toward wine. We don’t want to intimidate people. We just want to teach people about the enjoyment of wine. You don’t have to know anything about wine to enjoy a wine fest. If you’re a connoisseur you can also enjoy it, and it’s all perfectly okay. Nobody has to feel intimidated.” Goossens, who provides wine for San Fernando Valley Business Journal events and writes a wine column for the publication, said that his goal in organizing Loose Goose was to bring a sense of European culture and his family heritage to Southern California. Goossens is originally from Belgium and said he was the grandson of one of the largest wine collectors there. “I grew up definitely enjoying wine and the wine world,” he said. I wanted to bring that post-harvest European festival type of feeling where you can learn about the wine. Wine is a journey of discovery.” Goossens held the first Loose Goose two years after conceiving the idea. He believes there’s no better place to try wine than at a festival because the set- up allows one to go from booth to booth. Wine isn’t the only attraction at Loose Goose, however. “I wanted to bring not just the wine but all the luxury that goes with it,” Goossens said. “It starts off with a golf tournament on Thursday which revolves completely around wine, cigars and golf,” he said. “On Thursday, we have our gala, our black tie event, nothing but the best of the best wines. It’s really nice. It’s followed by dinner and entertainment. That’s our black tie event, the Golden Goose Gala.” In addition to cooking demonstrations, a live radio show broadcast, demonstrations by live barrel makers, commemorative wine glasses and an opportunity to win a trip to Costa Rica, the wine festival will feature an event called the Loose Goose Wine Festival after Dark and a musical performance by Latin jazz great Pete Escovedo, father of Sheila E., made famous by Prince. “We had them last year,” Goossens said. “They were a tremendous success. There were so many great reactions to his performance.” For more information on the Loose Goose Wine Festival, visit: http://www.loosegoosewinefestival.com/.

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