BY CYMBRE FOSTER Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The wine will share the spotlight at this weekend's Traverse City Wine & Art Festival.
The festival, a feast for all the senses, kicks off today with the inaugural Winemakers Party and continues on Saturday from 3 to 10 p.m. at the Grand Traverse Commons in front of Building 50, under the big tent on the lawn. Visual, performance and culinary artists will be showcased at the annual event, which is a production of the Leelanau Peninsula Vintner’s Association.
Tickets to the festival sold faster than usual after it was announced that Detroit-born singer-songwriter Sixto Diaz Rodriguez would headline the musical lineup. The story of the budding superstar was told in the Oscar-nominated film "Searching for Sugar Man."
“When Rodriguez came to Traverse City last summer for the Traverse City Film Festival, there weren’t a whole lot of people talking about him,” said festival director Laura Herd. “We knew right away that Rodriguez was the perfect musician to anchor the 100 percent Michigan lineup we wanted to have for our fifth annual festival, and we’ve been so happy to watch the world discover him.”
Leelanau Wine Trail President Matt Gregory said Rodriguez' appearance underscores the festival's mission to bring "rare and wonderful performances."
"Offering our fans the chance to see a budding superstar like Rodriguez on the big stage in a beautiful outdoor setting here in Northern Michigan is exactly why we created the festival,” Gregory said.
Dawn Thomas has been hard at work lining up an exceptional group of 30 artists who will be showing and selling their work on the lawn. The featured art — part of a juried show — represents every taste and price range, she said.
“I have some really cool artists coming in,” Thomas said. “There is no run-of-the-mill art. My goal was to get a good balance of mediums and of unique and original art.”
Highlights include wood pieces by woodworker Tony Reynolds and paintings by Mark Middleton, an artist from South Africa who is a big Rodriquez fan, Thomas said.
“He’s so excited to be coming here and his paintings of wildlife are just unbelievable,” she added. Also not to be missed: Sculptor Blaise Peluso's "breathtaking" alabaster vessels and bowls and Jeffrey Brown’s manipulated photographs.
Eastport artist Sue Swain will be there with her handmade-to-order Toe Togs shoes, and Sandra Plaga will have jewelry and likely one of the most unusual creations at the show: her Asian satin-lined buffalo scrotum purses.
Other art mediums include copper, ink drawings and even terrariums.
Of course, 30 regional wineries from the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas and Traverse City will be pouring more than 150 red and white wine selections for tasting and pairing with an array of culinary delights from a dozen fine restaurants.
“It’s a celebration for the winemakers,” said Herd. “They own the festival and we see it as a time for all of them to come together and celebrate what we do so well in the Traverse City region.”
To celebrate the festival's fifth year, a flash mob has been organized and choreographed by Emily Fine of Soul Step Dance Studio of Traverse City. For details, visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/444432918980497/.
Tickets for Saturday are sold out, but a limited number of $85 weekend passes, which include tonight's Winemaker’s Party along with Saturday events, still are available. Individual tickets for the Winemakers Party are $50 and include eight tasting tickets and three small plates.
Officials will offer a free shuttle running from the Old Town Parking Deck from 3-10:45 pm on Saturday and are strongly encouraging festival-goers to take the shuttlet. They say parking at the event will be tight and limited.
For tickets or more information, visit www.traversecitywinefestival.com/tickets/ or call 421-1172.