WILLCOX — Cooler weather is expected to greet wine festivalgoers along with new activities for community members as well as visitors.

The Range News contacted Mike Pigford regarding the upcoming Fall Wine Festival on Oct. 19-20 and found that this year’s festival includes activities for a variety of festival attendees. However, what makes this festival different from the rest is the fact that the Big Boy steam engine will be pulling through Willcox on Saturday at the start of the festival.

“We’re going to kick off the festival Saturday morning when that Big Boy steam engine comes in. And when it arrives, the festival starts,” Pigford said. “We’ll actually be ready to open 15 to 30 minutes early, knowing a lot of people are getting there early for this. We can’t sell alcohol until 11 a.m., but that means somebody can get a glass of wine and cheer the train as it departs at 11:15 a.m.”

New festival activities

Before the official beginning of the festivities Saturday, on Friday night there will be a Railroad Park fund-raiser dinner, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Cost is $35 per plate complete with wine tastings to complement the smoked brisket and roast pork.

Another new element of the festival includes a program Saturday night. Located on Maley Street, between Big Tex Bar-B-Que and Isabel’s South of the Border restaurants, will be the Hallo-Wine Costume Party and Swing Dance. This event will be free to attend, begins at 6 p.m. and features an extended period of wine tastings.

During both days of the festival, Vintage Village will be set up on Maley Street. Specializing in vintage artifacts, the village is orchestrated by Bear Cameran, owner of Bear’s Vintage Thrift Shop.

Four Peaks Brewery: a new partner

Pigford spoke of the Four Peaks Brewing Company, and the Range News visited with Rod Keeling, of Keeling Schaefer Vineyards LLC and Willcox Wine Country Partnership.

“From a perspective of wine, if it was purely a wine festival why would we want beer there? We wouldn’t. But it’s not; it’s a community festival. We have about 3,000 people there and probably (most) them are adults, and probably about half of those want to drink something besides wine,” Keeling said. “We got one of the most important craft breweries in Arizona, with the longest history: Four Peaks. I know they’re the biggest, but we’re really excited to be with them because they have the ability to help us promote this event, particularly in the metropolitan areas that we couldn’t just scratch. I’m excited about that. I’m excited about having a partner.”

Keeling also told the Range News that the festival is expecting a large crowd and hopes the brewery will accommodate everyone who attends.

“We want to make sure everybody has a good time and that it continues to grow and help us position Willcox and the Willcox region as the center of wine in Arizona and the Southwest,” he said.

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