WESTFIELD - The public is cordially invited to attend the Westfield Grape Discovery Center's Grand Opening, a mile west on Route 20, between 1:30 and 5 p.m. on Sept. 13.
Highlight of the afternoon will be the introduction of an exhibit room dedicated to the Star Family of Fredonia. This room will give visitors the opportunity to learn the history of the grape-growing business in the area with exhibits of the Concord grape and its cultivation from its beginning.
Although the center's conception was launched in 2008 with the purchase of a building, raising money for it took longer, thus its low-key but official opening on Memorial Day this year, according to Helen Baran, president of the Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association, originator of the project.
Ready to welcome visitors to the grand opening of the Grape Discovery Center Sept. 13 in Westfield are, from left Helen Baran, president of the Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association; Mackenzie Cady, manager; and Carolyn Bills, Operations Committee member and volunteer.
"Without the help of (state) Senator Catharine Young, who was responsible for getting us a $1 million state grant, we would have taken longer," she said.
Other sizable monetary gifts for the nonprofit endeavor came from Grower's Cooperative, National Grape/Welch's, the Baran Family, local grape farmers, businesses and private donors.
In addition to educating and promoting the wine and grape industry, the center also wanted to attract tourists to the area along with its history. And, as visitors learn about grape growing, they have the pleasure of doing so in unique surroundings.
Upon entry, one is elated at the sight of the many windows that brighten the large room with a view of a grape vineyard. The next room has a tasting bar where visitors may savor any of 12 wines produced in the nearby New York and Pennsylvania area. Have a small taste or buy a glass. Accompany that with local cheese or curried meats.
Also available to taste are non-alcoholic beverages, grape juice from local providers Cott, Welch's and Growers Co-Operative plants. There also are wine and grape slushies. These may be enjoyed at tables inside or on the outdoor patio next to a grape vineyard. Or sip your sample in the Star exhibit room.
As you are leaving, you are stopped by the sight of a large array of gift items to purchase for take-home mementoes or gifts. All choices are "grape memories," that is, they remind you of your visit and of grape products.
Among the many items you'll find sweatshirts, fleece jackets, specialty oils and vinegars, salad dressings, grape juice, pie filling and seed oil, grape-themed handmade handbags and totes, local pottery art and authors' books, all that will jog your memory of a wonderful trip to the grape belt.
Manager of the center is Mackenzie Cady, who earned a BS in International Economics and Pre-Law from SUNY-Fredonia and grew up on a Westfield grape vineyard. The only paid personnel, she is assisted by 20-plus volunteers, many of whom have had grape-growing in their experience.
Also on hand most every day on a volunteer basis is Andy Dufresne, former Cornell Cooperative Extension manager, who is the executive director and treasurer of CGBHA.
In addition, Carolyn Bills has been instrumental as a continuing events coordinator and a volunteer. Currently, she is a member of the Operations Committee.
The first-of-its-kind Grape Discovery Center is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. For information, call 326-2003, or visit its website, email@example.com.
The center continues to accept donations to further enhance visitors' experiences. Checks may be made payable to CGBHA and mailed to P.O. Box 194, Westfield, NY 14787. The Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association is a 501(c)(3) organization.