FORESTVILLE - Merritt Estate Winery recently hosted their 32nd annual Strawberry Festival.
Each year, the festival is held to mark the local strawberry harvest and the beginning of summer. While Saturday's weather proved daunting, wine and lacrosse enthusiasts flooded the winery grounds to enjoy live music and wine slush and to meet Buffalo Bandit's Johnny Tavares. The National Lacrosse League athlete, warmly known by his fans as the Godfather of the NLL, joined Merritt in an effort to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
The JDRF is the leading global organization focused on type-1 diabetes research. The goal of the JDRF is to improve the lives of all of those people affected every day by this disease. From grassroots volunteers to nurses and doctors, members of the JDRF are continuously searching for better treatment options for type-1 diabetes and hope to eventually find a permanent cure.
The JDRF began their work in 1970. Since then, the foundation has managed to donate more than 1.6 billion dollars towards diabetes research.
Tavares attended the event on both Saturday and Sunday. Fans rushed to get their sports memorabilia autographed by the popular player and to have pictures taken with the NLL icon. Autographed and customized bottles of Bella Rosa, lacrosse sticks, lacrosse balls and photographs were all available for purchase in an effort to raise additional funds and awareness for the JDRF. Additional customized bottles are available for sale at the winery in limited supply. Each bottle has been autographed by Tavares and a certificate of authenticity is included with purchase.
"It becomes easy to see how dedicated customers and fans are when they face the elements to support you," Jessi Luke, Public Relations and Promotions person for Merritt Estate Winery, said. "Our Saturday attendance was unbelievable, even through the wind and the rain! You would have thought it was a gorgeous day outside. We are so lucky to have such loyal supporters."
Event sponsors for this year's Strawberry Festival included Advanced Production Group, LLC, Casella Waste Management, Catt-Rez, Loyal Oak Greenhouses, North American Breweries, Robert Basil Chevrolet and Yancey's Fancy.
Merritt Estate is located in Lake Erie Wine Country, the largest grape growing region of New York State located along the shores of Lake Erie.