One of Ahwatukee’s premiere social events – the Festival of Lights Wine and Beer Tasting Festival – is returning to its original venue after a three-year run at Rawhide.
Organizers say they’re happy to be back at Foothills Golf Club for the four-hour event – 6:30-10:30 p.m. April 12 – and anticipate a capacity turn-out even if it is on a Friday instead of the usual Saturday.
“People often asked me why we left the Foothills Golf Club,” said Festival of Lights president Janyce Hazlett, who is also one of the original founders. “The club couldn’t give us time in the spring because of their weddings schedules, so we had to have it in June which could be pretty hot.
“Then Rawhide came to us and said, ‘Yeah, we’ll give you spring,’ so we held it there and it was a good venue. But then Foothills came back to us and said they could give us a spring date, but it would need to be a Friday night. We’re glad to be back in Ahwatukee, and the event will be just as much fun on a Friday.”
“A Starry Night” is this year’s theme. The Foothills Golf Clubhouse will once again resound with convivial conversations, live dance and easy listening music, the munching of appetizers from area restaurants and the competitive clamor over silent auction items.
And of course, there will be the sipping and tasting of the myriad wines and brews under the starry sky augmented by a half moon.
While popular rock band Tripwire and singer-songwriter Jonathan Cavier will be there, the silent auction is always a star of the night.
And technology has made the process a little less stressful than the anxious hovering over a coveted item in case someone bumps up the bid while you’re elsewhere.
Susan Anderton, a 22-year FOL volunteer in charge of this year’s auction, said people can use their cellphone to bid.
“Online bidding is very simple,” Anderton said. “We’ll have white glove helpers with iPads that will help our attendees download the app and begin the process.
“Each item will be displayed in the ballroom, and will also have pictures on the website. We encourage folks to walk around the tables and see the items up close, and then they can continue bidding from any other part of the building while enjoying our delicious food tastings and wine and beer.”
Among items up for bid is a boxing glove autographed by Muhammad Ali, theater tickets, jewelry, golf rounds and an abundance of themed gift baskets donated by local businesses.
FOL Committee member Janine Moeller is on her second year as restaurant liason for the event.
She and her husband/business partner moved to Ahwatukee in 2014, and own PostNet on Chandler Boulevard. She said being a small-business owner has helped her connect with area businesses.
“Honestly, my husband Aaron and I said from the beginning that we wanted to be involved in local community events and this has been a great way to meet other business owners,” Moeller said, adding:
“We’ve actually been on the committee since 2015, initially only as the print sponsor, but I took over restaurants for the 2018 Beer and Wine Tasting Festival, and then also worked restaurants for the FOL Kick-Off Party last year. I’m overseeing both again this year. I’m a bit of a foodie, so I like being able to interact with the restaurants and showcase the benefits of being involved in these events each year.”
Moeller said last year’s Kick-Off raised about $48,000 in sponsorships.
“As the restaurant liaison, my job is to go out and find our local brick and mortar locations and convince them they should participate. I think part of it is also as a business owner that works with small businesses every day helping them to market themselves, I see this as a great way for the restaurants to market themselves,” she said.
This year, she added, “we’re very excited to have some newcomers.”
They include Angry Crab Shack, Philly’s Sports Grill and The Irish Hare Pub out of Ahwatukee; Roy’s, Z’Tejas and Zoes Kitchen from Chandler; Flying Basset Brewery & Wilson Creek Vineyards.
“This year we have changed things up a little and hope our guests will enjoy it,” Moeller said.
In addition, the event wine connoisseur will be pairing wines to accompany various restaurant food samples.
Another annual highlight is the dessert-and-Starbucks-coffee area that this year will be configured more as a music lounge, thanks to staging by the new Ahwatukee business Vintageous Life.
“Vintageous will set up the area around the music and desserts so guests will have a relaxing area to just hang out and enjoy themselves,” said Moeller.
It takes a village to put on a big event, and Hazlett, in her fourth year as FOL president, encourages residents to volunteer to help make this year even more successful.
“We need about 90 volunteers and we currently have about 65,” she stated. “The later shifts are the ones we need more help and that includes the auction runners, pourers and ticket sellers.”
Interested persons can sign up to volunteer online but should be aware they are to attend a mandatory ‘dry run’ informational gathering on April 11.
“Because the venue is different this year, everyone needs to see the space and the placement,” advised Hazlett.
The webpage FOLAZ.org is also the place to purchase advance tickets for $50 each or foursomes for $160. Tickets can be purchased at Ahwatukee’s three Safeway Stores by cash, check or debit only, and if not sold out, are available at the door for $60.
Monies raised from the Wine and Beer Tasting Festival are used to provide the community with the annual Million White Lights display along Chandler Boulevard from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.
In addition, several charities receive cash donations from funds raised at this event, and this year includes Y OPAS, the Kiwanis Club of Ahwatukee and Clothes Cabin of Chandler.
The Foothills Golf Club is located at 2201 E. Clubhouse Drive off Liberty Lane in Ahwatukee.