The first major, socially-distanced outdoor event in Oswego took place along the Fox River in downtown Oswego Saturday and Sunday, May 1 and 2, when Wine on the Fox returned to the village and Hudson Crossing Park.
Canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the popular festival is the first community celebration hosted by the village in 2021. Several precautions were taken to encourage social distancing, including limiting groups of guests to four and providing socially distanced spaces for each group.
To discourage long lines at booths, each ticketed guest received a free bottle of wine that they selected, as well as an insulated bag full of ice.
“It’s the absolute perfect weekend,” Community Engagement Coordinator for Events Julie Hoffman said. “People are finding the spots that work for them, there’s people that like the shade and there’s plenty of trees, there’s people who like the picturesque river view, and there’s people who like to be right by the stage.”
Eight wineries were invited this year, Hoffman said, but seven confirmed their participation according to the event program: Fox Valley Winery, August Hill Winery & Illinois Sparkling Co., Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery, Lavender Crest, Sable Creek Winery, Village Vintner, and Prairie State Winery.
“We wanted to be sure that each of them felt supported,” she added. “We were lucky because the ones that are present...that felt safe and comfortable in attending this year, are all the wineries that brought in the greatest number of tickets over the past 15 years.”
Galena Cellars Brand Representative Britt White praised the return of Wine on the Fox and the other Illinois wineries.
“We are really excited to be back in festival gear,” she said. “It was kind of a bummer to not be able to see all of our fellow wineries last year, get to taste their wines, see the folks that come to the festivals - we have a lot of regulars that we love to see.
“So it’s really good to be back and outside and pouring wine and having a great time.”
Hoffman said that the return of these favored wineries “says a lot about the festival.”
“It says that they feel supported, they financially do well, and a lot of our patrons are repeat customers, so they look forward to having these wines and these wineries represented so they can either buy a favorite wine they’ve enjoyed in previous years, or look to find out what sort of wines they’re bringing for the first time.”
Patrons were excited, too, to return to the event at it’s original location in Hudson Crossing Park along the east bank of the Fox River. In recent years, the fest has been held across the river outside of Oswego’s Village Hall due to downtown construction.
Lisa Wiltgen and daughters Megan Wiltgen, Anastasia Woyna and Ramie Wiltgen came from different communities to enjoy a glass in their socially-distanced pod.
“We’ve been coming for a few years,” Lisa said.
Woyna said it was great to be back at the event, though the four missed the chance to bring their children to see each other.
“It’s good to have a girl’s only event,” Woyna said.
“Great music, great weather, great wine,” the four agreed.