Drought and fire risk prevented the popular Nelson Wine and Food festival from happening earlier this year, but that hasn’t deterred organisers from forging ahead for 2020.

The Rotary Club of Richmond is currently busy organising one of the region’s most popular events, planned to return on February 16, 2020.

Festival-goers will notice a big change next year, as the festival relocates back to its birthplace at the A&P Showgrounds on Lower Queen Street, after moving to Middle Earth Vineyards in Brightwater in 2004.

Peter Glue, a member of the organising committee, said after they discovered that the previous venue was being sold, they had to look for new options. “The A&P showground is a great area to have it. There’s natural shade, ample power for stallholders, and it’s close to a big population base.” Accessibility played a big part in decision making, and Peter says that Rotary want to encourage people to walk or cycle if they can. “We also just really want to see that facility being used, because it’s a fantastic area for the community.”

Despite the venue change, Peter says that it’s no surprise why the festival is still so popular after 16 years. “It’s an event that shows off great local wine, beer and food, and good local talent. The tickets are cheap, and people know they can come and have a fun, safe time with their friends.”

The festival is the major fundraising event for Rotary, and since its inception in 2003, all funds raised through the festival have been put back into Nelson and Tasman community organisations. In the last 10 years, over $360,000.00 raised through the event have gone towards groups like Rescue Helicopter, Nelson Tasman Hospice, The Women’s Refuge, Coastguard, Fire and Emergency, as well as local sporting groups and schools.

“I think the public is aware that all the money raised goes back into their community. It benefits everyone that attends in one way or another.”

Despite the cancellation earlier this year, due to drought and fire risk, the Rotary was still able to raise $4000 through a charity concert with the help of the New Zealand Army Band, and organiser Cynthia Martin says they made the right call, with many of the volunteers needed to make the festival a success preoccupied with the fire.

“Everyone was just stretched. We felt it would have been irresponsible for us to take resources and manpower away from the fire effort.”

While there are already concerns throughout the region of another hot, dry summer, and impending water restrictions, Peter says that Rotary is aware of fire risk, but that the new venue should mean that the Festival goes ahead this time.

“The grounds are maintained, and the grass is regularly cut, and there’s a lot of shade so we’re aware of the concerns.”

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