By Rick Coates
Kate Vitler, owner and innkeeper at the Riverside Inn and Restaurant in Leland, has big shoes to fill; two sets in fact, as she oversees the 25th anniversary of the Leland Wine & Food Festival. The Festival that takes place this Saturday at the harbor in Fishtown has been coordinated since its inception by Cris and Kathy Telgard. The couple decided last year to turn over the reins to Vitler.
I dont think the community of Leland, the wineries and restaurants, can thank the Telgards enough for their work over the past 25 years. They had a great crew of volunteers, many who are continuing to help with the festival, but they kept it all together and there is a lot of work to be done year round to get the Festival ready, said Vitler. We should put a couple of lifeguard chairs in the center of the activities and let the Telgards enjoy the event but they wouldnt go for it. they will be volunteering their time.
Vitler has been involved with the Leland Wine & Food Festival for the past 14 years and active in learning the ropes from the Telgards for the past four years.
They started to hint they wanted to slow down a few years ago and I agreed to step up, said Vitler. This Festival is so important to Leland and the Peninsula, in many ways it has been taken for granted because it has been here for so long. But before the Festival, this was a slow weekend out here because of graduation and end of school activities.
START OF SUMMER
The Leland Wine Festival has for many been the official start of the summer celebration season. It attracts 5,000 plus who enjoy sampling wines from the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsula along with food from area restaurants. The backdrop of the Fishtown shanties along with Lake Michigan and the Manitou Islands off in the distance has proven to be one of the reasons for the Festivals success over the years.
Definitely our location is one of the keys, there are a lot of wine festivals out there but we have one of the best locations in the state, said Vitler. Equally important is the quality of wines coming out of Leelanau and Old Mission. They are a major attraction along with the great food.
Vitler says the transition of power has been smooth.
The Telgards have been great; this is their baby as they, along with winemakers Bruce Simpson and Larry Mawby, started this, said Vitler. I cant say enough about Good Harbor Vineyards and all they do; certainly Bruce Simpson will be in our thoughts (see Bottoms Up) but his family and staff will be out helping.
There will be a few changes for this years Festival.
The harbor went under a major facelift so we have more parking lot and we are going to have two large tents next to each other that will allow for more wineries, restaurants and more space for people to hangout, said Vitler. Another thing I am excited about is that we are going to be a zero waste event. With 5,000-plus we end up filling up three dumpsters and another dumpster with cardboard, so Bay Area Recycling Charities is coming to help us with this.
So as Vitler and her team lead the Leland Wine & Food Festival into the next 25 years are there changes in the works for the future?
The big thing will be to analyze how the new layout will work and see what we can do to improve on that. Next year more construction will take place that will increase parking so we have to take that into consideration, said Vitler. We are always looking at ways to make improvements, like adding Shorts Brewery for those who prefer beer. Another thing we are looking at is a juried art show to select the artwork for the official poster.
The annual Festival poster was painted by Leland artist Maggie Revel Mielczarek and she will be on hand signing posters. Ron Getz & Friends will provide the music for the day. Festival tip: veterans of the Festival start lining the streets by 10 a.m. to get in, so arrive early and enjoy the morning shopping and eating in Leland.
The Leland Wine & Food Festival is Saturday June 12 from Noon to 6 p.m. at the harbor in Fishtown. There will be 17 wineries, 12 restaurants and Shorts Brewery on hand. Tickets are $12 and include a commemorative wine glass and two tasting tickets. Proceeds benefit beautification projects in Leland. For additional information visit www.lelandmi.com.