LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On Tuesday at Charles R. Wood Park, bottles were opened in a celebration a long time coming. The village mayor, head of the regional chamber of commerce, and others gathered to celebrate the return of the Adirondack Wine & Food Festival. The event returns to Lake George this weekend – the first time the cork has been popped on it since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We did do all that we could to keep the buzz over the last two years,” said Sasha Pardy, owner of Adirondack Winery and Adirondack Festivals – the latter of which was founded to host events like the Adirondack Wine & Food Festival. “I was nervous, and honestly, I knew that if we didn’t hold it this year, it probably would have been the end of the event.”

This weekend will be the festival’s sixth year bringing over 100 food and beverage artisans from around the northeast to the Charles R. Wood Festival Commons. Were it not for the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it would have been year eight. Even in 2021, when many were taking coronavirus vaccination as a sign to “get back to normal,” the Pardy family chose to hold off out of safety, as vaccine availability would still be in its early months.

The 6th annual festival is projected to see over 7,250 attendees, according to the winery owners and Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce President Gina Mintzer. Pardy said that tickets for Saturday were expected to sell out altogether. The festival runs from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 25, and 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 26.

It’s also about more than flavorful sips and locally-sourced eats. For its third year, the Adirondack Wine & Food Festival will directly benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Southern Adirondacks, which will recieve a portion of all ticket, water and merchandise sales. In 2019, the organization recieved over $15,000. For an organization with over 140 kids on its waitlist for getting needs met, that money goes places.

“The funds raised by this event will help local children facing adversity to be paired with role models that will encourage them to see futures for themselves that are beyond what they previously thought possible,” said Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Southern Adirondacks Development Coordinator Marie Busse.

The festival features special events at its culinary and mixology tent – one place where the connections beyond Adirondack Winery truly shine. The tent will be staffed by employees from [farmacy] restobar in Glens Falls, Park 26 at the Queensbury Hotel, and Cantina and Lucy’s Bar in Saratoga Springs, among others. Craft cocktails and competitions will feature special ingredients from visiting vendors.

Over 120 vendors are set to crowd the festival commons this weekend. The menu includes not just wine, but meads, kombucha, cheeses, chocolates and much more. Getting it all together has taken as Herculean an effort this year as before the pandemic – no matter how much time the festival took off.

“We’re so excited, and nervous, and stressed out,” said Pardy. “It just never fails that no matter how you prepare, the last two weeks before the festival, you’re putting in 90-hour weeks – that’s just how it is.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters has been the festival’s beneficiary for the last three years. Previously, SUNY Adirondack’s culinary program was given the spotlight.

Also at Tuesday’s conference were New York State Senator and Queensbury local Dan Stec; State Assemblyman Matthew Simpson; village Mayor Bob Blais; and Lake George Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson.