Wyalusing Valley Wine Festival
Nestled in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania, in the southernmost part of Bradford County, is the tiny town of Wyalusing, founded in 1887, and host to an annual celebration featuring wine from local and regional wineries, delicious food, music, and vendors. The town is one steeped deep in local history, having been established as a settlement long before it’s official incorporation when Native Americans established the village of M’chwihilusing, meaning “home of the honorable warrior.” The village name was later changed to the more easily pronounced Wyalusing, though it can still prove to be a tongue twister for some.
It could be said history, or, perhaps, honoring history, is what created the Wyalusing Valley Wine Festival. Now being added to the fall itinerary of many local wine connoisseurs and sommeliers, this year’s event is Saturday, September 15, from noon to 5 p.m. at 80 Fifth Street. Morgan Clinton, curator of the Wyalusing Valley Museum and wine festival planning committee member, explains that the festival began in 2004 as the brainchild of Gene Anne Woodruff and Mary Skillings as a way to raise funds for the Wyalusing Valley Museum. The museum, which recently moved to downtown Wyalusing, preserves and shares the history of the region surrounding the Wyalusing Creek Valley.
In the decade plus since that first event, when attendance was just 245, the Wyalusing Wine Festival now welcomes between 1,000 and 1,500 people annually to this rural, cozy spot overlooking the hills surrounding the Wyalusing Valley. The first location for the festival was prone to flooding, making the move to a field behind the Tuscarora Wayne Insurance Agency last year a much needed and welcome change, according to Cain Chamberlin, a member of the festival planning committee.
It was clear in the beginning that if the event was going to get off the ground it would need more volunteers, Morgan recalls. The local Lions/Lionesses were approached to join forces in the festival’s inception, and since then the event has expanded enough to help raise funds for that organization as well. The Wyalusing Lions Club (formerly Wyalusing Lions and Wyalusing Lionesses) provides donations to over a dozen local and national service organizations as well as providing support for local victims of fire and catastrophic illness.
The first festival showcased just five wineries. This year there are twelve, each offering tastings and helping to cultivate an interest in the area and what it has to offer visitors and residents alike, notes Cain.
“People really look forward to it each year,” he says.
Included with the wine tastings are vendors offering a variety of food samples, music, and crafts. The local favorite Wyalusing Swing Choir and the band Infinity will return this year. There is seating available in the various tents, and a wine check service is available for those buying three or more bottles so they don’t need to carry their purchases around while they enjoy the festival.
Visitors to the festival are encouraged to “make a weekend of it,” say Morgan and Cain. Some of the region’s attractions include the Wyalusing Rocks overlook, the Marie Antoinette overlook, the French Azilum historical village, and local downtowns. For festival-goers who are also running enthusiasts, the North Branch Triathlon takes place the morning of the wine festival. The triathlon includes a 3.6 mile run, a 4.5 mile kayak/canoe paddle, and a 15.3 mile bike ride.
Over the years the festival has entertained visitors from more than a dozen counties in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey.
“We have even had visitors from Scotland,” Morgan says.
Organizers see the festival as a way to highlight Pennsylvania wineries, especially those from the northeastern part of the state. “We hope the wineries attending can use the festival to develop their customer base and introduce their regulars to new varieties they are producing,” Morgan adds. “Wyalusing is a beautiful place, and we think the festival provides a good excuse for a weekend trip to the area. Being located right off of Route 6 makes the festival easy to get to. The Wyalusing Valley Wine Festival is a great opportunity to try some Pennsylvania wines, dance to some fabulous music, and enjoy the beauty of September along the Susquehanna River.”
Wineries represented this year include Antler Ridge Winery Inc., Benigna’s Creek Vineyard, Capra Collina Winery, Deep Roots Hard Cider, Grovedale Winery, Hidden Creek Vineyard & Winery, Juniata Valley Winery, Nimble Hill Winery, Pickering Winery, Sand Castle Winery, Kulpmont Winery, and Staggering Unicorn.
New this year is a system on the festival website that will make purchasing tickets online easier. To learn more see wyalusingwinefestival.com. For information about the North Branch Triathlon, visit wyalusingnorthbranchtriathlon.com.