2007 Arkansas Heart Association Festival of Wines: Review

Last week Jay and I attended the 2007 Arkansas Heart Association Festival of Wines. I had heard great things about it before and had wanted to go last year, so I decided to treat the two of us.

 The festival was held in the new Dickey Stevens Ball Park in North Little Rock, but in previous years had been held at Acxiom (not entirely sure where on the Acxiom grounds). I like the new ball park and this was a good excuse to get out there again. Nevertheless, I think the concept was more than what the event planners could handle, and there was a serious lack of people-flow and trash planning.

We arrived at the ball park around 6:30 (the event started at 6) to a moderately crowded but quickly-moving in-gate. Once inside, however, it was clear that this event wasn’t going to be as relaxing as I had hoped. The interior of the ball park was immensely crowded and confused, with pushing and angry looks, and immensely long lines that took forever to progress through. We started at the first table, but from what we could see every table was packed. The event billed over 600 wines and food from about 20 or so vendors, with a total of 44 tables to sample wine from, but over 2 hours later of standing in line we had only visited 13 tables, and the event was shutting down. Rather than allowing for a nice mingling room and letting visitors look around and choose what wine tables or food vendors to visit, the experience was much the heard mentality, with everyone shuffling after the person in front to grab that next taste of wine. The temperature was unseasonably warm (well, for Arkansas it might be normal, but it was warm), and add to that the amount of people crammed into a tight space you get a hot, sweltering and sweaty mess.

Speaking of wine tasting, while water was available to rinse out our glasses, it was few and far between and most of the servers didn’t realize I was asking for it.

And speaking of food, there were barely any trash cans available, and those few (I saw one or two at most) that were available weren’t even next to the food stations where you would receive additional plates, i.e. trash. If I had had one more hand attached to my body I might have been able to handle my wine glass, my even brochure (with a list of wines from each table that I was trying to make notes on), and my various plates of trash. Combined with the crowd and people shoving and stumbling into each other, it was a pretty frustrating experience.

 Eventually I tasted enough wine to not care too much about the crowd, but it took a good long time and too much waiting to get to that point. Some of the servers did pour a good amount of wine to taste, but the whole essence of a “tasting” was completely lost in the event. While I was attempting to taste various unknown (at least to me), most people just stuck out there glass for whatever readily-pleasible wine the servers decided to pour. Instead of what I had imagined, we were just shuffled along from table to table to get ourselves drunk, nevermind the fact that expensive, nice, exotic, and unknown wines are waiting to be tasted.

I ran into one of my friends who attended the event last year when it was held at Acxiom, and she said it had been much better: everything was open and not nearly as crowded. Maybe planners were heavily influenced from donations from the Stevens family, or maybe they were just drawn to the new ballpark. I hope, however, that next year they will reconsider and not plan the even in a place that reminds me of trying to fight through the crowd on my way to class in high school.


1 Response to “2007 Arkansas Heart Association Festival of Wines: Review”

  1. 1 jamiedeason September 9, 2009 at 10:08 am

    I noticed your review online of the 07′ Festival of Wines. I hope you were able to attend last year we had the entire concourse at Dickey-Stephens Park and much more room!! 07′ was our first year at the new venue and we didn’t have as much space. Luckily we have spread it out and have plenty of room for everyone to enjoy. The event is a lot of fun and for a great cause too!! I hope you will join us this year on October 1st we have 20 restaurants 600 wines and lots of room!!

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October 2007
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