‘Overwhelming’ crowd turns out for Budbreak

By Keith Strange

May 4, 2014

Judging by attendance numbers and the general mood of the crowd, Saturday was a good day to drink some wine. And maybe even a beer or two.

Organizers estimate that a record-breaking crowd was on hand for this year’s fifth annual Budbreak Wine and Beer Festival, which featured 17 wineries and four craft beer breweries showcasing their products.

“We don’t have firm numbers yet, but I can tell you that our online sales through the website are nearly double this year than they were last year,” said Bob Meinecke, chairman of the festival’s committee. “Last year we sold $2,300 worth of tickets through the website, and this year that number is a little over $5,000.”

Perhaps that growth can be attributed to the addition of new wineries and craft beer to the line-up.

Meinecke said the idea of a craft beer garden, featuring beers from Skull Camp Brewery, Foothills Brewery, Small Batch Brewery and Morgan Ridge Vineyard, sprang from a simple fact: Not everyone enjoys wine.

“We realized there are a lot of people out there who don’t drink wine, and many have said they wouldn’t come with their spouses because they couldn’t enjoy the beverage of their choice,” he said. “Right now, craft beers and microbrews are very popular so we decided we’d be the first wine festival to add that element.”

It seemed to work.

“We’ve had just an overwhelming crowd today,” he said as throngs of people clutching wine glasses filed by. “There are people here from all over the country. The word is getting out there and people are beginning to look at Budbreak as a destination.”

That is true for at least two attendees.

Darlene and Bill White drove up from Chapin, South Carolina to attend the festival.

“We came here just for this,” said Darlene White. “I was born and raised in Mount Airy and my sister told me about the festival and we wanted to come. We’re just having a wonderful time.

“I’ve been gone from Mount Airy since 1984, and thought I would come back for a glass of wine.”

The event featured performances by the Mediocre Bad Guys band, featuring Rolling Stones saxophonist Bobby Keys; and Eric and the Chill Tones, featuring singer and Mount Airy native Eric Chilton.

While Meinecke said many wineries are seeing the festival as an annual event, others like Childress Vineyards from Lexington experienced it for the first time.

“I love it,” gushed Julia Kiger of Childress Vineyards. “This is a great place. It’s beautiful here and the people are just wonderful.”

Kiger said the vineyard has been wanting to come to Budbreak since its inception.

“This weekend we finally had our schedules cleared so we could come, and I’m so glad we did,” she said. “This is great.”

Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.