Follow-Up File: Atascadero wine fest gets a lot cooler

Names: Ken Brokamp, Barbie Butz and Steve Martin

Job: organizers

Event: Atascadero Lakeside Wine Festival

What they said then:

In June 2009, the annual Atascadero Lakeside Wine Festival pushed its event hours later in the day.

Rather than running in early afternoon, as it had since its debut in 1995, the festival ran 4 to 8 p.m.

With the city’s summer heat — and pleasantly warm evenings — organizers said the change would make attendees more comfortable.

Held at the Atascadero Lake Park, the event features local wineries, food vendors, artists and live music. It has raised more than $100,000 over the years for community projects and programs, primarily at the Charles Paddock Zoo.

What they say now:

The change to cooler, “suppertime” hours in 2009 helped the event more than double its attendance to close to 2,000, Ken Brokamp said.

As chief executive officer of the Central Coast Zoological Society, he is coordinating marketing for the 2010 festival, to be held June 26.

“From all indications, we will exceed the attendance from last year,” Brokamp said. “I would easily say our sponsorships are up about four-fold.”

This is also the first year the Atascadero event has had more interest from wineries than it could accommodate. About 80 will pour.

The Paso Robles Wine Festival also pushed its hours later this year, noted Barbie Butz, who has served on the Atascadero event’s organizing committee since its first year.

Besides fundraising, she said, one of the festival’s primary goals has been to increase tourism.

“We want to encourage people to come and discover what’s in Atascadero,” Butz said. “It’s so easy when you’re on 101 to not see what’s here. A lot of towns, there’s something that you see that gets you off the freeway.”

Anecdotal evidence shows individuals are drawn to the wine festival from Southern California and states such as Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Utah.

The festival hasn’t tracked the number of out-of-towners buying tickets in the past, but Brokamp said that’s changing this year with a new ticketing system.

A free event shuttle that has previously run from the Sunken Gardens now will also stop at the Best Western Colony Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Super 8 Motel.

Ticket prices have increased: $40 in advance and $45 at the park. Proceeds will be earmarked for the zoo’s construction of a new flamingo exhibit.

Steve Martin, executive director of the Atascadero Main Street Association, agrees the cooler hours have been a big boost for the festival.

“The wine festival is really shining in showing off the Atascadero Lake Park as a tourism vendor,” Martin said. “The people who decided to change the times made a winner of a decision.”

— Raven J. Railey