Great year for wine festival 

P>By Nicole Fitzgerald

Tourism Whistler officials are looking at rebranding Whistler’s biggest food and wine festival, Cornucopia, next year, giving advertising a whole new look, a more accurate image that better illustrates the youthful vitality of the festival.

Cornucopia bares no resemblance to stereotypical wine tastings, of suits circling a conference room picking up brochures; the festival sizzles with funky flare, tantalizing cultural events and a hip and crazy crowd.

This year, the festival took one step further with Whistler’s raciest party, the MasquRave, transforming into a Las Vegas extravaganza.

Aircraft searchlights, seen as far as the Cheakamus Canyon, gave a Hollywood welcome to more than 2,500 masked guests.

A huge improvement from years past, quality champagne, beers and wines generously flowed through the night, a champagne lounge was a welcome addition for ladies’ high-heeled feet, additional rooms in Buffalo Bill’s and Ric’s Grill provided tucked away places to chat, the infamous air-brushed naked women shared the spotlight with the breathtaking acrobatics of Cirque Phoenix and the Famous Players band in the main tent packed in a zealous dance crowd. What used to be at times a shady party was polished to a tasteful finish with the usual liberal dose of sexually-charged additions ringmaster Andre St. Jacques is famous for. This year’s show included Chinese shadow performance starring two porn stars, a naked woman drizzled in chocolate for strawberries to be wiped across and chips and shrimp wrapped in Playboy magazines.

The guests raved, about the evening and on the dance floor. The only distempered ticket holders were the ones who either had to wait an hour and a half to get into the $200-ticketed event or couldn’t get in at all. That included journalists from The Province and The Globe and Mail as well as a couple from Kelowna who had driven all the way to Whistler, specifically for the MasquRave.

St. Jacques was mortified, refunding tickets and desperately trying to make amends where he could. Although he declared this would be MasquRave’s last year, already he is thinking about tenting the entire driving range across from the Bistro into one area fit for 4,000 people, alleviating this year’s entrance problems and traffic flow within the party.

The entrance was shut down a few times by the fire inspector because of the bottleneck occurring in front of the Bistro. The only accident of the night was a dancer falling and hitting her head.

"We are going to be dealing with all kinds of parties during the Olympics," St. Jacques said. "This is definitely a learning curve…. I am happy by 97 per cent, and that three per cent of people that didn’t get in, I’ll have to wine and dine them and win their hearts back."

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