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Culinary festival adds new ingredients

One of Tahoe’s most popular culinary attractions will spice itself up this year, adding new flavor to an old event.

With delicacies and exquisite wines, the annual Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival, sponsored by the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, has attracted visitors with hungry tummies for 22 years.

This year, organizers said they want to add a competitive edge with changes to the location, events and fund-raising that they believe could double the festival’s size.



According to the Travel Industry Association of America, 27 million tourists engaged in culinary or wine-related activities while traveling in the past three years, said Pettit Gilwee, the festival’s public relations representative, in a press release.

The festival intends to tap into that market, attracting food and wine connoisseurs who are otherwise unlikely to visit Tahoe’s sparkling waters and crisp mountain air, Gilwee said.



“[The festival] brings people in from everywhere, and every aspect of the community is impacted economically,” said festival Director Judy Laverty. The sponsors’ goal is to eventually expand the festival to a week-long event, encouraging tourism during Tahoe’s shoulder season, she added.

This year the festival is emphasizing family participation, making the gastronomic event stand out among California’s many culinary attractions, said Gilwee.

“If you take a look at all of the different food and wine festivals throughout the country, most are for 21 years or older,” she said.

Since its modest 1985 debut at the Tahoe City campground, the three-day event has steadily grown into a premier culinary destination. Over 1,200 people participated in last year’s Autumn Food and Wine Festival at the Resort at Squaw Creek.

One of the biggest changes food fans will notice is the location switch, returning participants outdoors to Northstar’s patios from Squaw Creek’s indoor ballrooms last year, Laverty said.

Northstar’s outdoor ambiance will not only add a different taste to traditional events such as the Blazing Pans Mountain Chef Cook Off, but will allow room for new events, including live music, a new kid’s cooking camp with pasta-making and pottery-painting, and a farmer’s market-style food and wine shopping area.

Northstar officials agreed to reserve its facilities during the third weekend in September each year exclusively for the festival, said Laverty.

This year, Sunset Magazine will participate, hosting tours of the Sunset Idea House at Gray’s Crossing in Truckee, a showcased home with new ideas on interior decorating and design.

Festival proceeds will jump-start a new community fund of North Lake Tahoe founded in January by the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, putting money earned from the event back into the community, said Laverty.

Organizers are trying to elevate the festival to a new level that will attract visitors throughout the nation, said Gilwee.

“And there’s no place like Lake Tahoe,” she said. “It’s just not the same having this type of event in the Central Valley.”


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