Another festival returned to Roanoke this weekend after a prolonged public health hiatus, the latest in a citywide resurgence of events back on schedule this year, according to community organizers downtown during a busy first Saturday of summertime.
Thousands crowded the Roanoke Beer & Wine Festival at Elmwood Park on Saturday afternoon. Live music and locally crafted alcoholic beverages benefited Center in the Square, a nonprofit focused on developing the arts, culture and economy of downtown, said April Corbett, director of marketing and outreach.
“If you walk from Elmwood Park here, straight over to the market building, you will see economic development just gangbusters today,” Corbett said. “We can’t hit a better day, beautiful sunshine. Having the car show going on at the same time, the farmers market is open and thriving.”
Streets downtown were closed for a car show happening at the same time as the beer and wine festival. Meanwhile a block away, shoppers bounced between farmers market stalls, restaurants and shops, reminiscent of the days before a novel coronavirus shut down so many aspects of everyday life.
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“This is our first time back with the wine and beer festival since 2019,” Corbett said. “We could have come back last year, but we chose to wait until it felt really good. And we came back bigger, and better and stronger.”
It’s great that folks are returning downtown for good times after a long two years of pandemic precautions, but public events like Saturday’s beer and wine festival have a greater significance for the sponsoring organizations, Corbett said.
“We offer almost-free space for other nonprofits to house themselves, and we offer security and maintenance and cleaning, so they can focus on their missions,” Corbett said of Center in the Square. “That’s why events like this are so important: to raise money, and also awareness.”
More than 10 local vineyards and breweries, plus one distillery, were pouring drinks for the festival, said Justin Davison, who works the logistics event for Big Lick Entertainment, which planned the event for Center in the Square.
“Every single festival that we put on, every single concert that we put on, the attendance seems to grow more and more,” Davison said. “I think part of it is that people are wanting to get out of their house, and they want to support local. Our events are able to touch both of those bases.”
He said he hopes to see a continuation of public places once again feeling populous.
Continue to support local. Support your local music scene, local nonprofits,” Davison said. “Great things are going on here in the Roanoke Valley.”