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Posted May 18, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Virginians gather for samples of state wines, crafts and fun

Cassie Mulvena and Craig Laird are served a sample
Cassie Mulvena, of Front Royal, and Craig Laird are served a sample of wine by Kim Bledsoe from North Mountain Vineyards near Toms Brook during the 23rd Annual Virginia Wine and Craft Festival held in Front Royal on Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily

Ariel Jacob gets her face painted
Ariel Jacob, 4, gets her face painted at the Warren Coalition booth on Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily

Douglas Short and his son
Douglas Short, of Front Royal, and his son, Mason, 5 months, rest in the shade of a tree downtown. Andrew Thayer/Daily

Vickie Tribus and her mother are served wine
Vickie Tribus, left, of Front Royal, and her mother, Reba Marrs, are served wine samples by Neal Brade, right, and Dewey Snavely of the Davis Valley Winery in Rural Retreat in Front Royal on Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily

Zack Beckner dunks Town Manager Michael Graham
Zack Beckner, 11, throws a ball which ended up dunking Town Manager, Michael Graham during the 23rd Annual Virginia Wine and Craft Festival held at Front Royal on Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily

Dennis O'Leary demonstrates ice sculpting
Dennis O'Leary, owner of D & B Chocolates, demonstrates ice sculpting to Robert Belanger, left, Matthew Winters, Ryan Belanger and Tanner Steed, right, in downtown Front Royal during the 23rd Annual Virginia Wine and Craft Festival held Saturday. Andrew Thayer/Daily

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By Linwood Outlaw III -- loutlaw@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- With live music entertainment and children's activities in the background, droves of Riesling and Cabernet Blanc lovers crowded the downtown area on Saturday afternoon for the 23rd Annual Virginia Wine and Craft Festival.

About 27 wineries participated in the eight-hour event that spanned Main and Chester streets. Like organizers for Mayfest event in nearby Strasburg, wine festival coordinators kept an eye on the sky, hoping rain showers wouldn't come their way.

"It started out this morning a little cloudy, and we were a little worried. But, by noon, we were so busy we couldn't keep up. People seemed to be having a great time," Chamber of Commerce President Niki Findley said.

Despite the effects of the recession, organizers were able to keep most activities traditionally held at the annual event intact, Findley said.

"Because things have been difficult for everybody all the way around, people are looking for outlets and ways to have fun. So, we've been able to be OK this year simply because people still want to get out and have a good time and kind of forget about the things that are going on," she said.

For the most part, patrons enjoyed sunny weather during Saturday's festivities. Inevitably, rain began to trickle down late in the afternoon, but, it wasn't enough to keep people from roaming downtown for a sample of some of the best fermented grape juice around.

People flocked to the Cooper Vineyards vendor for some Sangria and Noche, a popular chocolate dessert wine.

"I think Virginia is well regarded for its wines ... And this festival is one of our favorites. It seems to attract a very nice and diverse crowd. It's our eighth year doing it, and we always have a good time," said Geoffrey Cooper, who operates the vineyard in Louisa.

Many of the wine tasters were very inquisitive, said Allen Thurston, a volunteer for the James River Cellars winery in Glen Allen.

"They want to know if it's sweet or dry. They also want to know what grapes are in the wine. A lot of the wines are blended [from several grapes]," he said. "Virginia is more into wines now. Some of their wines are ranked higher than California wines, which is pretty cool."

Marvin Chrisley, who worked the Shenandoah Vineyards vendor at the festival, said the event is always enjoyable.

"You meet a lot of people. It's fun being outside in a festive atmosphere," Chrisley said. "You're talking to people and helping them decide which wine they like. A lot of people are just experimenting."

Wine tasting wasn't the only activity that drew attention on Saturday. The event also gives local artists a chance to put their handmade jewelry, musical instruments, pottery and other crafts on display. Brian Taylor, 61, a retired high school teacher who lives in Warren County, has developed a knack for making bowls over the past five years.

He put his wooden bowls on display during the wine festival. Taylor said making the items has become a cherished hobby of his, but he has no intentions of turning it into a new career.

"This is the fourth time we've been here, and we only sell bowls by word of mouth," Taylor said. "People say 'why don't you have a Web site?' If I had a Web site, it would be a job. I already had a job. I'm retired from my job. This is a hobby. When I can't play golf, then I go down to my wood shop and I work on bowls."

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