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Wine and Pear Fest draws a crowd

Springhouse Cellar’s red splashes into a glass.

Springhouse Cellar’s red splashes into a glass. Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea.

Anna and Pedro Pederson of Vancouver and Mona Knudson of Argentina sampled local Anjous as they held glasses of wine Sunday.

At the Columbia Gorge Wine and Pear Festival in Hood River, combinations of flavors and sounds kept about 3,200 entertained over the weekend at the third-annual event hosted by Hood River Rotary.

Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum hosted the festival.

At the Northwest Pear Bureau table Sunday, and Pederson and Knudson tried their hand at the pear-and-cheese pairing wheel; no word on how well the reds in their glasses went with the Anjous, but they seemed pleased, and also admired the protective “pear packer” containers that were given away.

Pine Grove grower Jon Laraway showed the visitors how to “check the neck” for ripeness, and Ashley Lathrop of the Bureau passed out more slices.

“People would ask us if the pears were for sale, but we’d tell them, ‘not here, but try your local supermarket.’”

It was just one scene at the well-attended event that filled Hanger 3 for the entire weekend.

“It really went well,” said event coordinator Dave Bick of Rotary. “Most of the folks seemed to really like the change of venue; the music and food were good and the vendors were happy with their sales.”

Funds from the festival go toward scholarships provided by Rotary. The financial tally was unknown at press time, but Bick said, “I think we did really well.”

“Very good. Thumbs-up,” said Ellen Spofford of St. Helens, who along with her husband, James, sampled wine and HR Ciderworks fare.

“We got a hotel room for the night and we decided to make a weekend of it,” Ellen said.

“Wine tasting is the new cultural frenzy, and it’s fun to be part of it,” James said, quaffing the golden effervescent liquid poured by Steve Bickford, co-owner of HR Ciderworks, a new business in the Gorge.

“I grew up in Massachusetts and everyone made cider on their own. This is really good, actually.”

Bick said a total of 18 wineries from throughout the Gorge poured wine. Many visitors were seen heading back to the parking lot with totes containing four to six bottles.

Entrance to the festival included admission to WAAAM, and the museum remained open for non-festival visitors. This year, with the change of venue, festival access was to the south, and vehicles were parked on the field to the southeast of the museum.

Dozens of OLCC-certified alcohol monitors patrolled the hangar, making sure alcohol was poured and consumed legally. Bick said he was not aware of any problems.

“Most of the folks who come to this event are responsible and just want to enjoy the experience of sampling a little wine, a little food and a little music,” he said.

Rotarians will hold a debriefing on the event Thursday, to discuss how things went and begin planning for 2014.

“WAAAM was really glad to have us there,” Bick said.

One improvement that Bick said has already been discussed is increasing the amount of fruit available, and putting booths such as the Pear Bureau’s in a more prominent place.

WAAAM’s Ben Davidson motioned to the antique cars, tractors, equipment and other displays that were laboriously lifted from the floor to surrounding shelves.

Several more major events are planned at WAAAM through the summer, culminating in the annual Fly-In, the second weekend of September. After that, Davidson said, the displays will be placed back on the hangar floor.

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