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Tips for Attending Food Festivals and Tastings

A list of 10 things to help maximize your experience when attending a food festival or tasting event.

By Kari Kynard Ridge on August 22, 2014

Find out how to easily and successfully navigate a food or drink festival with 10 quick tips.
Brian McCord

Food has brought people together almost since the beginning of time, so it makes sense cities and towns across the country successfully unite their communities with festivals celebrating food and drink. Concerts, cooking demonstrations, children's activities, chocolate tastings, and beer and wine gardens are all a part of many food festivals.

When a food festival or tasting comes your way, you want to be prepared for a fun event not wander aimless and overwhelmed by the choices. Below, we’ve put together a list of 10 things to help you get the most out of your food festival experience:

Research: Before you even leave home, you can formulate a game plan. Many festivals and tastings post menus and event maps online so you can figure out ahead of time what you want to try and where to find those pot stickers, whoopee pies, or hard ciders. Check your local weather forecast, and bring rain gear if a wet day is in your future. Check the event’s website to ensure the weather hasn’t forced a cancelation.

Wear Comfortable, Dark Clothing: It’s amazing how much walking and standing you can do at these events. Your feet will thank you for leaving the high heels at home. Comfortable, loose clothing will let you enjoy the gastronomic feast before you. Wearing dark pants or shorts means you won’t have a noticeable grass stain if you have to create a picnic spot on the ground should all chairs be occupied. And if you spill your tastings, it won’t be as evident on dark clothing.

Bring Cash: Payment options vary greatly from taste to taste. At some events, you pay each vendor in cash for your selection. At others, you purchase “tokens” at the gate that are used to pay vendors, or you buy entrance passes in advance. Admission to some events is free, while a fee is charged at others. No matter how your event operates, cash also comes in handy for everything from paying for parking to buying a souvenir.

Bring Your ID: You’ll need it to enter all alcoholic beverage tastings. Many food festivals, such as the Taste of Amherst, MA, include a beer and wine tasting tent. If you want to imbibe, bring your ID.

Eat Before You Arrive: This tip applies only to beer and wine tastings, never to food festivals! Eating a light meal before imbibing will allow you, and your body, to better enjoy the tasting. Be sure to enjoy the foods, such as pretzel necklaces, provided at beer and wine samplings. Feel free to “expectorate,” the fancy word for spitting in a provided bucket, to allow you to taste more alcoholic beverages without the after-effects.

Do Some Reconnaissance: Don’t eat your way through the event – walk around when you arrive to find things you want to sample. No one wants to fill up before they’ve found their favorite huckleberry pie or veggie tamale. If you see something enticing on someone’s plate, ask them where they bought it.

Use the Buddy System: If lines are long at the vendors you want to try, split up so that you and your friend can stand in different lines, thus getting two samplings of foods at the same time. Agree on a place to meet, and enjoy your bites when you are both through the lines.

Stay Hydrated: Nearly all food, beer, and wine events provide or sell water and other nonalcoholic beverages. This might be the perfect time to try that fresh mango smoothie you’ve seen others drinking. Experts advise drinking plenty of water, so you are less likely to over-imbibe in alcoholic drinks. No matter what type of event you’re attending, make sure to visit the nonalcoholic beverage vendors.

Sample Freely: Even if you don’t like the first soup you sample, you might find a new favorite in that same restaurant's second selection. These events are designed for you to try new things – take advantage of it.

Save Your Research Findings: Snap photos of restaurant banners and menus, and of beer and wine labels you liked. Long after the last festival tent has come down, these will help remind you which wineries, breweries and restaurants you want to visit.

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