Wine, Beer and Food Festival returns to GR with pandemic-era changes

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Even amid a worsening COVID-19 surge, large-scale events are returning.

The Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer and Food Festival gets underway Friday and runs through Saturday at DeVos Place Convention Center downtown. Admission tickets are $20. Tasting tickets are 50 cents each.

The pandemic has changed the way things are handled at the festival. A couple of clicks on the festival’s website and you can buy a ticket for admission and tickets to purchase items offered up by the venues. A QR code has all the information vendors need.

“The user just simply scans their code and then the pourer behind the booth deducts the number of credits for that they have purchased, and they’re away,” explained Stew Buchanan, CEO of Event Pass, which developed the touchless ticketing systems. “Of course, the touchless component, especially in today’s world, is absolutely essential.”

Along with cutting down on close contact with others, the system eliminates the need to fumble for those little ticket stubs normally used.

Too techy for you? You can also buy a card with a QR code at the door and scan it at the booths.

If you don’t spend everything on your ticket, a scanner at the door will allow you to donate what’s left over to charities, including the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Family Hope Foundation and Schools for Sierra Leone.

Touchless tickets are just one pandemic-era feature of this year’s festival. It was supposed to be the 15th annual show, but the pandemic canceled last year’s event.

“We are so anxious to have everybody joining us starting at 6 p.m.,” festival publicist Dianna Stampfler said. “People come here to spend time with family and friends and to enjoy great food and great beverages, and all those things are back again this year.”

This year’s festival is expected to draw big crowds.

“This show is always a real popular event, especially in the evening. I think people will be coming out in the typical numbers. We should see eight, 10, 12 thousand people this weekend,” Mike Wilbraham with ShowSpan Productions, the company that puts on the wine festival and other shows throughout the year at DeVos Place and other venues.

Hand wash and sanitizers and more space between booths are just some of the measures taken to keep participants safe. Mask wearing between sips and bites is also being encouraged.

“Be prudent while you’re here,” Wilbraham said. “There’s plenty of food. There’s plenty of things to drink. Sample them. Enjoy them. Put your mask back on as soon as you’re done eating.”

WOOD TV8 will have a booth at the festival featuring a selfie world experience. There will be a green screen so you can check out what it’s like to be in studio. You can also hang out on the eightWest couch.

—News 8’s Gabrielle Phifer contributed to this report.

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