ALBEMARLE — After a COVID-induced hiatus in 2021, the Stanly County Winter Wine Festival is making a return in 2022. Tickets are now available to the event, to be held on Feb. 26 from noon to 5 p.m. at Market Station in Downtown Albemarle.
SCJ had a chance to speak with Joy Almond, Albemarle’s Main Street director, about the event.
“We had to cancel last year,” Almond said. “So we’re excited to be able to resume the event in person again this year.”
Almond said the event typically has around 1,500 people, and they expect a similar crowd in 2022. Since last year’s event was canceled due to COVID, this year they are taking some precautions to have a safe event while still allowing people to mingle freely.
“We’ll encourage people to wear masks, and we’ll have some hand-sanitizer stations set up, but with it being a wine tasting where people are going to go table to table with samples, I know that’s going to be a challenge,” Almond said. “It’s a semi-outdoor event; it’s going to be tented. Part of the event will be set up differently where some of the tents will have openings at the bottom to allow for more air to circulate. So we’re trying to host the event responsibly and we’re excited to be able to host it.”
In terms of what vendors will be coming, Almond said she has 12 vineyards signed up for the event so far. She said all but one of the vendors from the last event, which was in 2020, have confirmed they will be returning.
“It wasn’t because they didn’t want to be here or any reservation in regards to COVID about being here,” Almond said of the one vineyard that couldn’t make it. “It was simply because they didn’t have the staff to be able to cover the event.”
The event itself, she said, is a fun way for friends to get together and sample wines and socialize. They don’t even have to be expert connoisseurs to enjoy themselves, although some serious wine aficionados do show up.
“We have had people in past years, because we have so many vineyards under one roof, we’ve had people literally come to this event to stock their wine cellars and will buy cases of wine to take back with them,” Almond said. “So it’s a one-stop shop for those that are really into North Carolina-made wines. And I’m really pleased that we have this event to be able to celebrate a major driving force of our local economy, the vineyard industry.”
In addition to the more-expert visitors, she also says many show up with a group of friends and make a day of it.
“I see a lot of group outings,” she said. “You can tell [because] there are women who all wear matching t-shirts that are wine themed, and they all seem to have a lot of fun together. It seems like an outing for a lot of friend groups that seem to come out and enjoy. And I recognize a lot of people there, but there are also a lot of those that are traveling from all over the state and some from places outside of our state. But it does bring a lot of people, and a diverse crowd, too, I would say.”
For those who are interested in coming to socialize but may not be into wine, she said there will be other items to sample, including food trucks like What-A-Burger, Higgins and Sons BBQ, Hilltop Seafood, and On-Time Snacks, as well as musical entertainment provided by DJ Dean.
To buy tickets for the 2022 Stanly County Winter Wine Festival, visit Glory Beans Coffee House, Livi Bug’s Boutique, Local Boujee, Starnes Jewelers or McRae Jewelers in Norwood. They can also be purchased online at stanlycountywinterwinefest.com. Only people 21 and older will be admitted, though, so those attending will need to find someone to watch the pets and kids for the afternoon.