Fill the Senses at Stafford’s Harvest Festival, Wine Tasting Fourth Weekend of October

Sep 23, 2016

A weekend-long celebration of autumn is planned for Oct. 22 and 23, when the Stafford Township Recreation Department and Greitz Communications and Events present concurrently the 10th annual Fall Harvest Festival and the fifth annual Wine Festival. The harvest festival is Saturday (rain date Sunday) from noon to 5 p.m., at Manahawkin Lake Park, on the playground side. The wine festival is held rain or shine both days from noon to 5 p.m., also at the lake park, on the gazebo side.

The harvest festival has hayrides, craft and food vendors, a Halloween parade and costume contest, pumpkin picking, scarecrow making, a jalapeño eating contest, inflatable rides and more amusements for kids and families. The town’s annual Halloween parade starts at noon from the Stafford Firehouse on East Bay Avenue and proceeds to the lake, followed by the costume contest and jalapeño eating contest at 3 p.m. Admission to the hayride is a non-perishable food item that will benefit local food pantries.

Live music will fill the air and vendors will line the walkways through the park, and food and beverage trucks will be onsite to feed and refresh the masses.

At dusk, enjoy a bonfire and outdoor movies (bring chairs and blankets).

“The Stafford Fall Festival is a terrific family event that has grown over the years,” according to organizer Susan Greitz. It’s also a welcome enhancement of the already successful harvest festival.

The wine festival will offer dozens of wines from nine of New Jersey’s leading wineries, as well as its own lakefront setting, craft vendors and food, including The Empanada Guy food truck, Manahawkin Ice Cream with wine- and alcohol-inspired ice cream flavors, and a Cannoli World dessert truck.

Sample wines from Cava Winery and Vineyard, Coda Rossa Winery, Cream Ridge Winery, DiMatteo Winery (winner of the Governor’s Cup award this year for best fruit wine), Monroeville Vineyard and Winery, Plagido’s Winery (Winery of the Year at this year’s annual New Jersey Wine competition), Sharrott Winery, Southwind Winery and Villari Vineyards. Guests younger than 21 years of age and designated drivers are admitted free.

“New Jersey now has over 50 wineries in three designated American Viticultural Areas,” Greitz explained: “Warren Hills AVA, Central Delaware Valley AVA, and the Outer Coastal Plain AVA. We have participants representing each area.”

In the past, several of the wineries have offered recipe ideas for warm spiced wine, which is really nice on a fall day; and some have a fall specialty wine in addition to their regular offerings. The participating wineries have a good mix of sweet and dry wines, and guests will be able to find some great red wines that pair well with heartier fall/winter foods.

Free parking is available in A. Paul King Park on West Bay Avenue, which is connected to Manahawkin Lake Park by a small pedestrian bridge. On-street parking is also available in the neighborhood across the street.

Dogs are permitted, as long as they are leashed and comfortable in large crowds. The lineup of artisans, crafters and vendors includes two with dog-specific merchandise.

On Saturday, music is provided by Manahawkin-based instrumental psychedelic rock/jazz fusion band Nectar and Ambrosia; on Sunday enjoy Acoustic NRG, playing hits from the ’80s to today.

“The lake is a beautiful setting for the event and is a great spot to bring some lawn chairs to relax with friends and listen to the music while tasting wines from some of the premier wineries in the state,” Greitz said.

Tickets for the wine fest can be purchased for $12 in advance (plus handling fee) at stafford2016winefest.eventbrite.com, or $15 at the entrance. Tickets will be honored for either day of the festival, but all sales are final with no refunds.

For additional information, call 609-489-0910. 

— Victoria Ford

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