Three Rivers takes over Tri-Cities Wine Festival

The Three Rivers Convention Center is taking over the Tri-Cities Wine Festival after its longtime co-producer pulled the plug on the event.

The convention center in Kennewick partnered with the Tri-Cities Wine Society to put on the annual event, which included wine judging, an auction, public tasting and a festival. The society announced in August it would permanently discontinue the festival, blaming the lingering effects of the pandemic.

The move caught the convention center by surprise. Staff decided to update the event and keep it on its calendar, beginning in 2022.

“We know what Tri-Citians want,” said Heather Breymey, director of sale for the convention center. At its peak, the festival attracted about 1,200 people. By recasting the event to focus on young, sophisticated wine lovers who are interested in fun and not contest results, it hopes to boost attendance.

There will be no 2021 event. The next festival will be held in November 2022, though no date has been selected. Breymey said Three Rivers wants to ensure its festival does not compete with fall release events in Walla Walla.

The Tri-Cities Wine Festival began in 1979 as a fundraiser for the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau, now Visit Tri-Cities.

Tri-City attorney Coke Roth and colleague Maury Balcom organized the gathering to raise money to buy a copier for the visitor bureau. It ended up boosting the Tri-Cities as a destination for wine tourism and a tradition was launched.

The wine society took over hosting duties about 30 years ago. The convention center became its co-producer about 10 years ago.

It welcomed news that the convention center staff would continue the event.

“The Tri-Cities Wine Society is proud to have hosted the annual Tri-Cities Wine Festival for 31 years – an event that helped Northwest wineries and the wine industry to grow through strong community and regional support. With the Three Rivers Convention Center’s announcement to ‘take the reins,’ a long-standing tradition can continue,” it said.

As the wine society steps back, it said it will seek new ways to showcase the mature industry, including the resumption of wine events for members and their guests.

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