Cornucopia's success sets event up for 11-day festival in 2013 

Food and wine extravaganza draws more Vancouverites and LGBT community

click to enlarge JOERNROHDEPHOTOGRAPHY.COM - grape expectations Cornucopia attendance was strong this year, with more than 25 events selling out during the annual food and wine festival. The numbers are encouraging for 2013, as organizers plan to extend the event to 11 days. Photo BY joern rohde,
  • grape expectations Cornucopia attendance was strong this year, with more than 25 events selling out during the annual food and wine festival. The numbers are encouraging for 2013, as organizers plan to extend the event to 11 days. Photo BY joern rohde,

The numbers may not be in but Cornucopia organizers are heralding the 2012 event as a success and looking forward to an expanded program in 2013.

"There certainly seemed to be a lot of buzz around town," said Louise Walker, Tourism Whistler's (TW) vice-president of marketing strategy.

While the occupancy numbers from the festival period won't be available until next month Walker said TW monitored the pace of advance bookings and they were strong.

"I would make an educated guess that occupancy would reach at least 60 per cent Saturday night, which is fantastic given it's the shoulder season," said Walker. "We also saw a strong pace of bookings on the Wednesday and Sunday nights."

In past years the event has drawn many from across the border in the U.S. But this year with the American election held on Nov.6 fewer U.S. visitors made the trip to Whistler.

"We didn't have a lot of Americans attend, which is normal for an election year," said Sue Eckersley president of Watermark Communications, one of the organizers of Cornucopia.

But Vancouver residents flocked to the resort to relax over the Remembrance Day long weekend, and take in Cornucopia.

The increase in Metro Vancouver visitors made up for the drop in tourists from Washington State and other points south of the border, said Eckersley.

When Eckersley was asked if, like some other event coordinators, she noticed more lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) visitors she said she did have the feeling there was a greater presence from the gay community this year.

Dean Nelson, the Executive Producer and CEO of Alpenglow Productions Corp, said GayWhistler has been promoting Whistler as a great destination during and outside of the annual WinterPRIDE festivities.

"I'm thrilled to hear that it appears more of the LGBT community had participated," Nelson wrote in an email from Egypt. "GayWhistler had been promoting the event throughout the summer at trade shows, pride festivals and conferences as well as through our advertising channels highlighting that there is more to do in Whistler than just WinterPRIDE week."

According to Nelson, members of the LGBT community feel free to be themselves in Whistler.

"Gays and lesbians in general appreciate good food and wine so this festival is a natural gravitation which I'm sure will continue to increase," wrote Nelson.

He anticipates a strong LGBT showing in Whistler for the film festival at the end of November as well.

More than 25 of the events on the Cornucopia roster sold out and Eckersley said this sets the festival up nicely for next year when she expects the festival will span 11 days.

"The event is a financial success so we will not be borrowing from past or future events," said Eckersley.

She singled out the Night Asian Market held Sunday as a particularly successful new event.

"It was a great event, well conceived and well executed," she said. "The number one thing people were talking about was the great value. That is something that is pretty important to Whistler in general."

Eckersley also said new events like Eau de Vie and High Rollers made good first appearances at the festival.

Fairmont Chateau Whistler public relations manager, Jennifer Tice, said hundreds enjoyed High Rollers.

"Over 400 guests were in attendance dressed to party," Tice wrote in an email. "The gaming tables were packed and everyone was blown away by the beautiful costumes provided by Paintertainment."

Chris Chaisson won the High Roller grand prize. He will choose from a ski getaway or a Cornucopia 2013 prize package. Tice said her hotel is looking forward to hosting the High Rollers party again next year.

Meanwhile, Cornucopia proved to be a huge financial success for Whistler Animals Galore (WAG). The organization reported that it pulled in more than $30,000 through various fundraising initiatives through the weekend.

Shannon Broderick, WAG's director of shelter operations, wrote in a Letter to the Editor to say that the money raised will go into the organization's critical care fund. "This fund provides costly surgeries for animals like Atlas; a very special dog who was abandoned at a campground and left to fend for himself for 18 months.

"After multiple surgeries, and months of recovery, Atlas's happy ending came last week when he was adopted into his forever home. WAG is a second chance for hundreds of animals just like Atlas, for which happy endings would not be possible without the community's generous financial support."

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