The ladies will still have their Girls Night Out, but men will now have their own piece of the Western Fair District’s annual London Wine & Food Show with the debut of The Man Cave.
The London Wine & Food Show is a three-day event held Jan. 10–12 in the Progress Building at Western Fair District. The district’s director of corporate affairs, Heather Blackwell, said organizers are estimating more than 12,000 people to attend the 2013 show, which would be a 10 percent increase over the year before.
“It draws really well. It started off, and this is the eighth year, it drew 4,000 or 5,000 people, which is good for a first year. But it has grown incrementally every year and that is positive,” Blackwell said. “It is a fun show. Everybody loves to eat, drink and socialize. It is an educational event too, there is so much to learn from all these food artisans and connoisseurs at a multitude of booths.”
The 2013 show will include approximately 100 alcohol and food exhibitors combined.
Blackwell said many exhibitors return year after year because they build relationships with the other vendors and the participants alike. Those relationships become vitally important to restaurants, craft breweries, wineries, and all those different groups coming out to the show.
“I think a large number of vendors do return. It is a great opportunity to network with your customers, educate them, also gain new customers. You can come and sample a restaurant or a wine, beer beverage,” Blackwell said. “If you like it you can partake of it in the restaurant or visit your LCBO or liquor store. It is a great networking event for buyers and for sellers. It is a sample before you buy kind of thing.”
The Wine & Food Show opens on the Thursday with the celebration of the sophisticated food and drink connoisseur. There will be a red carpet where participants can mingle with their friends, along with celebrity host Chef Corbin Tomaszeski. In addition, there will be some classical entertainment with a modern twist.
The Friday features the Girls Night Out, which Blackwell said has been growing in popularity since it started just a couple years ago. “The girls get together and the guys love a girls’ night out, so they are welcome to attend too,” said Blackwell, who added there cheese tastings, a fashion show and other events.
The Saturday features a full day of activities, including numerous tasting events.
In addition to the regular festivities, the district has unveiled several new endeavours designed to keep the public entertained and coming back for more.
The Jack Astor’s Flair Competition takes place on the Saturday. The Flair is a bartending competition that Tom Cruise fans will recall from the movie Cocktail. “Just like in the movie,” Blackwell said, “there will be a lot of bottles being tossed around. It is really fun to watch.”
The Flair competition takes place on Saturday, Jan. 12, beginning at 7:15 p.m.
The highlight of the entire event could well be the unveiling of The Man Cave. A response to the popular Girls Night Out, Blackwell said the Man Cave will feature a room dedicated to exactly what comes to mind when people envision a guy hanging out with his buddies.
“Girls Night Out was so popular, we wanted to bring in something to cater to the men. The women are welcome too, but this is what you would expect from a man cave — wings, billiard décor, craft beer, whiskeys, leather recliners, big TVs, it is a guy’s dream,” Blackwell said. “ It isn’t a huge part of the show, but it is something we are sampling and think will become a big part of the show.”
The London Wine & Food Show, Blackwell said, has become “probably one of the most popular shows in the city, but definitely the district.” The Progress Building is the largest venue at the district, but even so, is nearly overflowing that venue because it is serving a strong need in the community.
“I think consumers in southwestern Ontario were looking for an event like the Wine & Food Show,” Blackwell said. “There were complimentary shows in Toronto and Ottawa and we thought London should have its own. The consumers continue to support it so we keep putting it on.”
The district is known for getting input from the public and Blackwell said is the social aspect of the show that keeps people coming back. Sometimes by individuals or even couples, but many more, Blackwell said, come in groups who are looking to gain greater knowledge on everything from what the best restaurants are to where the best cheese artisans can be found.
Tickets are $10 online or $12 at the door with sampling tickets $1 each. Participants must be 19 years old or older to attend. For more information online, visit www.westernfairdistrict.com.
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