SHERIDAN - It's time for Willow Fest again, and the acres of scenic property surrounding the winery are equipped to offer a relaxing retreat and entertaining escape for the entire community over the next few days.
Beginning this evening and continuing through Saturday night, area residents of all ages are invited to Willow Creek Winery - located off Chapin Road in the town of Sheridan - for the ninth Annual Willow Fest. Providing wholesome family fun; a host of food, drink and craft vendors; a wide array of attractions; an eclectic lineup of live musical entertainment; and a breathtaking backdrop to all activities, the event is presented for an incredibly low price of admission and parking - free!
"The atmosphere here is just laid back and relaxing, and we try to promote that for all of our events," winery owner Doug Metzger said. "What we do is we tell people to bring their blankets and their lawn chairs with the family and just relax out in the lawn and enjoy a beautiful day of food, crafters, live entertainment and fireworks. It's definitely a whole day affair, and our goal is to just get people to come out and relax and enjoy it."
Despite some rain showers last year, Willow Fest 2008 was a big success, offering the many visitors to Willow Creek Winery three days to remember.
According to Metzger, the first Willow Fest was hosted in 2000. Since then, he said it's been growing in attractions and attendance each year, drawing upwards of 8,000-10,000 people from across the region.
The event is aimed at the entire family and sure to please family members of all ages, with amusement rides and games for the children and live, local bands and the beer and wine tent for the adults. In addition, there will be a number of craft and food vendors, offering traditional festival fare, for all to enjoy.
The feature attraction, however, is always the famous fireworks displays, which were started 32 years ago by Metzger's mother in 1977 and have become the largest displays in New York state.
"The fireworks display is the big thing," Metzger said. "Our Friday night fireworks display is bigger than most any town around. Our Saturday night is one of the top 10 shows in the country."
Both shows are unique, he explained, with Friday night being a bit more relaxed and geared toward families, and Saturday night drawing a huge crowd from all over and filling up the surrounding area with viewers for miles.
Since the festival's inception, Metzger said there has never been an incident on the winery property, despite the large crowds it draws, thanks to the relaxed atmosphere fostered by the festival and the easy-going attitude of everyone drawn to the event. Throughout the years, Willow Fest has remained an exciting, yet relaxing getaway - a weekend eagerly awaited by all, even those outside of the immediate area.
In addition to everything brought in for the festival, the winery property itself is a real treat for any visitor.
Winery facilities feature a covered pavilion which seats up to 600 people. There are also many benches, swings and picnic tables in private spots where you can relax and enjoy live music floating across the scenic landscape. A majestic gazebo adorns an island centered in the winery's large pond, and a winding brook tracing its way throughout the property as well.
"There's waterfalls, there's flower gardens, there's rock gardens, we have nature trails, there's fruit trees," Metzger added.
All new this year, a stage setup for national acts - 43' by 28' with an amphitheater roof - was constructed for Willow Fest 2009. The winery also added permanent men and women's restrooms.
The schedule of events at Willow Fest for the next three days are as follows:
Tonight from 5-10 p.m. - Car Show 5-10 p.m.; The Untouchables (live band) 5-9 p.m.; food vendors, wine and beer tent, amusement rides and games, and craft show throughout the evening.
Friday from 5 p.m. to midnight - Crash Cadillac (live band) 4-7:30 p.m.; Fireman's Hose Race 6 p.m.; Terry Buckwald as Elvis 8-10 p.m.; fireworks at dusk; food vendors, wine and beer tent, amusement rides and games, and craft show throughout the evening.
Saturday from noon to midnight - Baby Boomers (live band) 1-4 p.m.; Heard of Buffalo (live band) 4:30-8:30 p.m.; Sheridan Community Chorus 9-10 p.m.; fireworks that evening; food vendors, wine and beer tent, amusement rides and games, and craft show throughout the day.
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