Heat doesn’t spoil Kent State’s 4th food and wine celebration

Jillian Kramer

Senior hospitality major and president of the Ice Carving Club Maggie Raffel carves a wine bottle that is part of one of her displays she carved for the Ohio Wine and Food Celebration at the Ashtabula campus.

Credit: Beth Rankin

Under one of the many scattered yellow tents, she wiped her brow and introduced another new, nutritious olive oil. Her spectators seemed to look past her and across the lawn where a large “K” made of ice dripped away in the sun.

But Candice Berthold went on. The owner of four businesses represented at this year’s Kent State Ohio Wine and Food Celebration would not let a little heat get in her way.

“I graduated from Kent State back in the ’70s,” Berthold said. “This is my third year here as a patron and first as an exhibitor, and I’ve really enjoyed myself.”

Berthold hosted one of many demonstrations held behind the Ashtabula Campus’s main building. Other demonstrations included wine pairing and ice carving.

Berthold’s demonstration about the benefits of olive oil drew a small but dedicated crowd, while others chose to walk the grounds among the many vendors. In the background music floated from a small stage sponsored by the local Hampton Inn. Robert Ocasio, Alex Blevan and the Renaissance Choir all performed.

“I liked hearing Alex Blevan,” said Jim Arbaczewski, owner of Ferrante’s Winery and Ristorante. “I was drinking beer to Blevan before some of these people were born.”

Those who could drink carried with them a complimentary wine glass, included in the ticket price, to sample various wines from the many wineries that attended the event.

“That’s the best part,” Arbaczewski said. “Seeing wine in people’s hands and watching them enjoy it gives me an immense sense of satisfaction.”

Not every vendor shared Arbaczewski’s enthusiasm for the simple pleasures of the event.

“It really wasn’t worth it,” Marie Louise Welch, owner of Milady’s Secret Garden, said. “The date is just terrible. It’s right after high school graduations. There’s the grand opening of a mall in town, and the Indians are playing the Red Sox today.”

Vendors paid $50 for 10 feet of space beneath a canopy with two tables and chairs.

“I probably wouldn’t pay for it again,” Welch said. “My cards went out, but I didn’t really make any sales.”

Some said the weather also played a part in the small turnout.

“It’s too hot for people to come out and drink wine,” said Susan Stocker, dean of the Ashtabula campus. “It’s rather funny. Last year, we had to build a fire to keep warm because it was so cold, and this year, it’s almost too hot to bear.”

Others seemed to enjoy the event and the wine despite the heat, including sociology professor Steve Webster and his wife, Debbe. The Websters heard about the event while visiting local wineries and decided to check it out.

“I’ve enjoyed tasting all the wines,” the professor said.

Later, his wife said, “And knowing the admission price goes to the scholarship fund makes it all worth it.”

The scholarship fund provides $500 to one non-traditional student on the Ashtabula campus. Ticket proceeds as well as donations from the vendors endow the fund.

“I really come out to support the scholarship,” Berthold said. “For every bottle of olive oil I sell, I give $1 to the scholarship.”

And others who attended the event were happy to know that their money was being put to good use.

“I didn’t know the proceeds went to a scholarship fund,” Patti Brainard of Geneva said. “That’s good to know because it’s really too expensive to get in here. At least that makes up for it.”

Perhaps the celebration is even more beneficial than that.

“This event really brings people from the community onto the campus,” Stocker said. “It gives us a chance to show off.”

Contact international students and regional campus reporter Jillian Kramer at [email protected].