Altoona’s Premier Wine Event is seeing several changes this year, offering an expanded wine selection and craft beer at the Enabling Garden in Altoona on June 7.
This is the first time the festivities are being held at the location at 1050 First Ave. S., from 5-8 p.m. Those who have never been to the garden will have the opportunity to partake of the libations while exploring the venue, a place that makes gardening accessible for those with different physical challenges.
In addition to offerings from the six Iowa wineries that will be in attendance, Hy-Vee will be providing samples of California wines. And though this is billed as a celebration of vino, there’ll be something for beer lovers as well, with craft beer samples from three breweries, also made available by Hy-Vee.
Various hors d’oeuvres and live music will round out the evening. Tickets are $15 in advance, $25 at the door and are available in Altoona at the Altoona Area Chamber of Commerce office, 119 Second St. S.E., Suite A, or at Hy-Vee customer service.
Adding wines from California, along with beer, was done “to broaden who this event appeals to,” says Beth Van Ryswyk, event planner with the Altoona Area Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber likes to consider different venues for its various events, Van Ryswyk says. Choosing the Enabling Garden gave them the opportunity change things up while hosting it in Altoona.
“We just thought it would be very nice scenery there,” she says, in keeping with picturesque locations they’ve used in the past. “We’re excited that they’ll be able to promote their garden that night, too. Being at a prime location on a main street in Altoona will make it accessible to a lot of people.”
Organizers also hope to benefit from the bike and foot traffic from the Vern Willey II Trail.
Some in the community are not even aware of the garden, says Sandie Hamilton, co-chairwoman of the Enabling Garden. She’s excited the event is being held there and the exposure it will give the garden.
“I think it’s a beautiful venue,” Hamilton says. “And in June, it’s generally in its glory. That timing is really great.”
The Chamber, presenting sponsor Hy-Vee and a number of other sponsors are helping to make this year’s event happen. Those sponsors include: Royal Flooring, Swain Chiropractic, Bankers Trust, Altoona Nursing and Rehabilitation, The Iowa Clinic, Jimmy John’s, Valley Bank – Lori Slings, Fireside Grille and Great Western Bank.
Hannel Cellars, Little Swan Lake Winery and B&B, John Ernest Vineyard and Winery, Crane Winery, Tabor Home Vineyards and Winery and River Valley Orchards and Winery will be at the event.
There will be a variety of cabernet, merlot and chardonnay wines from California, says Jen Book, store director of the Altoona Hy-Vee. Hy-Vee will also be offering beer samples from Peace Tree, Boulevard and Millstream breweries.
Event goers will nosh on a variety of foods, including crudités, fresh fruit, gourmet cheeses, Southwest smoked pork eggrolls with a fresh mango salsa and crostini porcini mushroom dusted beef tenderloin, Book says.
Doug Zimmerman and Bob Castelline will be providing live music.
Community leaders say they’re excited to see the event happening at the Enabling Garden, which is a part of Altoona’s city parks system, and are looking forward to a fun gathering.
City of Altoona Councilwoman Michelle Sloan is a fan of wine and likes the flavor of those from California. She’s excited to try them out at the event.
“I think it will be a great addition,” Sloan says.
In the past, this social gathering has been held at Toad Valley Golf Course in Pleasant Hill, which has been a “beautiful” setting, Sloan says.
“But this will be nice to be in town,” she says of this year’s location. “I think it will show off our city a little bit more and bring attention to a park there that residents don’t utilize or know about.”
The fete offers a fun, low-key night out for the grown-ups.
“It’s an opportunity for young adults and adults to get together in a relaxed community setting,” Sloan says.
Brigid Ernst has been to the event once before and is planning to attend this year.
“I think it’s just a great time to socialize with other people from Altoona, and I’m all about supporting community events,” Ernst says. “I enjoyed just getting out and seeing a lot of people in the community. That was a lot of fun.”
While she liked sampling the wares of Iowa wineries and supporting local businesses, she’s curious to see what the California wines have to offer.
“A lot of Iowa wines are very sweet, and I’m not much of a sweet wine drinker,” Ernst says. “So the chance to sample wines outside of Iowa may give a greater variety.”
But Ernst, who sits on the parks board for the City of Altoona, is particularly excited about this year’s venue.
“I think it’s a great idea,” she says. “I think it’s more centrally located, so it will be able to get more traffic. I love the environment of the Enabling Garden, and I think it’s just a really unique setting to do something like this. I think it will give the event more ambience, and it brings people to enjoy another part of our community as well.”
The Enabling Garden: “Where Disabilities Become Abilities”
It began with one woman’s vision.
Twelve years later, those “seeds” that Paula Winslow first planted to grow support for the Enabling Garden in Altoona have flourished, creating a vibrant community space where people can gather; attend free, garden-related programs; and take a free yoga class (a new addition this year).
“It’s purpose is to show people you can garden throughout your lifetime, no matter what your physical barriers might be,” says Sandie Hamilton, co-chairwoman of the Enabling Garden.
The garden’s tagline: “Where Disabilities Become Abilities.”
Visitors and gardeners with different physical challenges can enjoy the space. Raised planters and vertical gardens make it easier for those who can’t get on their knees.
Winslow, a longtime resident of Altoona, first learned of Enabling Garden in a magazine article. After completing her master gardener training, she decided she wanted to give back to the community she was raised in by creating an enabling garden in town.
Winslow went to the City of Altoona with a plan. The city offered the land the garden sits on, which is just shy of two acres. Fundraising efforts began in 2002, and soon the garden was born. Fundraising, along with grants and financial help from the Polk County Master Gardeners help finance the garden, Hamilton says.
The garden is a collaborative effort between Iowa State University Extension, Polk County Master Gardeners, the City of Altoona and many volunteers.
It’s run by 26 volunteers, the majority of whom are master gardeners, Hamilton says. Master gardeners go through training coordinated by Iowa State University Extension and then share their knowledge and skills with other gardeners. But they’ll welcome anyone willing to help at the Enabling Garden, Hamilton says.
There’s plenty of work and maintenance to be done. Every spring, more than 5,000 annuals are planted, Hamilton says. That’s in addition to the perennials and trees.
They’re also currently redeveloping the garden’s southern end. They’ve already installed a large, cedar arbor, she says, and there will eventually be a children’s area.
Hamilton hopes that having Altoona’s Premier Wine Event at the location will bring more awareness to the garden.
“I think it gives the community a place to gather and enjoy the beauty of the garden and the company of whoever they bring to the garden with them,” she says. “It’s a great gathering spot.”