From the hay bales set up around the park to the tents covering the bottles of locally made wine to the scent of homemade kielbasa to the music of band amRadio, it’s easy to tell just what time of year it is in Tunkhannock.
Some 2,700 people from the area and outlying communities can attest to that.
The Harvest & Wine Festival sponsored by the Tunkhannock Rotary originally began as a way for the group to raise money for community projects. Throughout the years, it has evolved and adapted and now attracts thousands of visitors.
The festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Lazybrook Park, Route 6, Tunkhannock, rain or shine. Approximately 50 food and craft vendors and 12 area wineries will participate. Those over the age of 21 will receive a handstamp that entitles them to taste the wine and sample cheese.
The increase in attendance and enthusiasm of the crowds have prompted the group to update its annual event constantly, co-chairman Ron Furman said. “It’s a beautiful atmosphere in the park,” he said. “It’s a nice time. ”
The handstamp, rather than a traditional ticket, moves the line through quicker. A $5 designated-driver fee entitles someone not drinking to enter and provides safety for those who wish to sample the alcoholic beverages. Additional electrical outlets were set up to enable the food vendors to spread out across the grounds. More restroom facilities were added.
“We had someone paint lines to make the parking situation better,” Furman said. “We really get quite a crowd here, and the lot can get filled. Last year, we had about 2,700 people, and we expect that many or more this year.”
Although one stage is at Lazybrook, another one was brought in from a fire station so a second band could be added.
Small changes such as these came up at the group’s first review session in January, Furman said.
Hay bales and picnic tables create a fun atmosphere for the festival. Music is provided throughout the day by Tunkhannock-based band amRadio, a repeat performer. A new band, Third Degree, also will perform this year.
“We get a lot of repeat customers and some new ones, too,” Furman said. “Word gets out. And amRadio with their own following is a big draw for us.”
Attendees enjoy walking around the park stopping to sample wine and cheese, both of which will be plentiful.
“We look for a variety of items, including food and crafts, when it comes time to select the vendors,” Sandy Lane, chairman of the vendors, said. “We don’t want a lot of one item.”
While many vendors come back each year, the festival also seeks new merchandisers. An Amish farm from Lancaster is making its first appearance selling layers of artisanal goat cheese. Another booth will offer sweaters by a group that raises alpacas, South American camelids that resemble small llamas. And a wide range of crafters will sell their handiwork.
More than half of those attending make at least one wine purchase, Lane said. Hard cider from Benton will be available. Wine-making accessories also are big sellers thanks to the popularity of the hobby.
Visitors also can make an entire meal at the event. Food items range from kielbasa and crab cakes to smoked chicken and pulled pork. Or the culinarily unadventurous can always count on the traditional hot dogs and hamburgers in the Rotary’s tent.
“Most of the people who come here end up spending the entire day at the festival,” Furman said.