By Kamiah Koch
Despite the chill of the night, several hundred people carried wine glasses and green goodie bags around downtown during the Downtown Bellingham Partnership’s second annual Holiday Wine Walk on Friday, Nov. 9.
More than 20 local shops opened their doors past their normal hours and invited attendees to enjoy wines from various wineries across the region.
Morgan Henry Kerr, event and program coordinator with the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, said 600 tickets were available for the event. All of which sold out the day before the event, according to the Partnership’s Facebook page.
Kerr said the Partnership’s role is to make downtown as lively as possible by encouraging engagement between the retailers and community through events like this one.
“[The Wine Walk] is a great opportunity for retailers to get people in their space and also create activity for downtown,” Kerr said.
Nick Meza, the owner of babygreens, a new plant shop which opened in April, said he wanted his business to be involved in the Wine Walk because it brings people together and is an opportunity to network.
“There was no reason not to,” Meza said.
Each retailer has a liquor license for the event, according to the Partnership’s Facebook page. Since it is illegal to drink on the sidewalk or in the streets, guests could explore the different stores they are in while finishing their glass of wine before moving onto the next. Kerr said this is an intended aspect of the Wine Walk.
“It gives shop owners an opportunity to show who they are and it gives attendees the opportunity to interact with the businesses they never had or done otherwise on their own,” Kerr said.
Stephanie Sedlak, a Wine Walk attendee, said she and her friends enjoyed the openness of downtown they experienced during the event.
“I like going into new stores I’ve never been into before,” Sedlak said.
Sedlak’s group said some of their favorites stores on the self-guided wine tasting route were Backcountry Essentials, an outdoor specialty shop, and WinkWink, a new women-owned and identity-inclusive sex shop, which they all voted had the best wine. The group also said Greenhouse, Bellingham’s longtime homewares, kitchen and furnishings store, had the best space with ample room to move around.
It was a little more crowded in babygreens.
With more than 25 attendees at a time in the small, one-room shop, it was easily a full house. Luckily, with plenty of plants around, attendees could enjoy fresh smells and Instagram-able backdrops.
Meza said he estimated several hundred people passed through the store by the end of the night.
According to Kerr, three parties collaborated to make the Wine Walk a successful event. The Downtown Bellingham Partnership worked to organize the participating retailers and attendees while the local shops set up their spaces to host attendees and winery representatives. The last group involved is a company called Uncorked, which connects different wineries to the event.
The event had many sponsors, namely the Community Food Co-op, Kerr said. Attendees received reusable Co-op shopping bags as goodie bags filled with custom Wine Walk wine glasses and drinking tickets. According to the Wine Walk Facebook page, there were two categories of ticket purchasing. General tickets provided 12 tasting tickets versus the VIP tickets which offered 15 tasting tickets and additional snacks.
Kerr said each event they put together has different demographics and no two are the same. She said her favorite part of this event is seeing the different groups of Bellingham residents come together to attend.
“I find drinking and wine culture interesting anyways,” Kerr said. “Seeing all these people come in and being so committed to it, and when 8 o’clock rolls around you can really tell who has been participating.”
For Kerr, the Wine Walk is all fun, festive way to kick off the holiday season and get spirits running high.