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Cornucopia finalizing event lineup

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Longer festival means more events plus a new emphasis on health and wellness

It is out with the old and in with new events at the 17th edition of Cornucopia, Whistler's annual fall celebration of food and wine.

The festival is set to start on Thursday, Nov. 7 and this year the fun is being spread out over 11 days. The celebration of the harvest and Whistler's culinary abundance will again feature winery dinners, seminars, wine tasting events and evening parties. Of note this year is the absence of Masquerave, Eau du Vie and High Rollers, three big headline parties.

Sue Eckersley with Watermark, a key festival organizer, said details of the bigger parties this year are still being worked out and that planning is underway for events at Garfinkels, Buffalo Bills and the Mexican Corner.

According to Eckersley, a number of events are seeking liquor license extensions to 4 a.m.

André St. Jacques from the Bearfoot Bistro confirmed that Masquerave isn't happening this year, as he's contemplating turning that event into a summer party. In its place the Bearfoot Bistro is hosting a smaller scale party on Saturday, Nov. 16 in the restaurant with a ticket price of $125.

"Monster is the main sponsor," said St. Jacques. "I don't know what the name of it is but we are having a party."

He said the party would sell out quickly because there's only room for 450 people in the restaurant.

St. Jacques also has plans to do a restaurant switch with the Vancouver Shangri-la's Market restaurant during Cornucopia.

"Market is going to come here on the ninth with their whole kitchen crew and with their front of the house," said St. Jacques. "We're bringing the tables and chairs so we're transforming the Bearfoot Bistro for one night. It's going to be The Market by Jean-Georges at the Bearfoot Bistro."

On Nov. 14 the Bearfoot team will take over the Market by Jean-Georges space in Vancouver's Shangri-La Hotel.

The High Rollers party last year at the Chateau Whistler was a late addition to the Cornucopia calendar once it became clear that Ric's wasn't planning to host its annual Casino Royale party.

Yasmin Haufschild, the director of special events at the Chateau Whistler, said this year her hotel is concentrating on the marTEAni Party and Bubbles and Brunch along with a special event featuring Barton Seaver, Esquire Magazine's chef of the year in 2009.

New this year is a series of events to be held at the Chateau Whistler called Nourish.

"It is very focused on health and good nutrition," Haufschild said of the Nourish seminars and events.

She said the fit is perfect because her hotel is focused on health and nutrition with its various menus and programs.

Most of the festival days will begin with Nourish meditation sessions from 7 to 8 a.m. followed by yoga from 8 to 9 a.m. then Nourish seminars through the day at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. The seminar topics range from the magic of mushrooms to a panel discussion featuring local farmers and talks on the paleo diet.

Eckersley said with the move to an 11-day festival the organizers made a conscious decision to offer programming aimed at those interested in health and wellness while maintaining what she called the festival's traditional "over indulgence."

"We had so much content smushed into five days so having the ability to spread it over 11 days is a fantastic opportunity to allow people to go to more things over a longer period of time," said Eckersley. "Last year we introduced a bunch of new components and it was because we were going to 11 days that we introduced the components to it."

Eckersley pointed out the festival is now more attractive to international visitors who need a day or more of travel to get to Whistler.

She singled out two restaurants as key players this year — Alta Bistro, which has something planned almost every evening, and the Mexican Corner, which is hosting a number of events at its new location in the spot formerly held by the Chinese Bistro.

Alta Bistro is hosting 10 festival events this year.

The eatery's Eric Griffith said he wanted his restaurant to play a larger role.

"We do this 365 days a year," he said. "We need to elevate our game and make some exciting stuff happen."

According to Griffith, Cornucopia is a legitimate solution for a slow period in the year.

"The more we talk about it the more people want to come up from Vancouver," said Griffith.

Blue Shore Financial is the main festival sponsor. The financial institution was the presenting sponsor last year under its old name, North Shore Credit Union.

The full festival schedule is available at the Cornucopia website. Event tickets can also be purchased through the website at www.whistlercornucopia.com, and check back with Pique for more news and updates.

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