Cornucopia can trumpet its success Crush! packed, dinners sold out By Chris Woodall "The nicest comment we kept hearing was that Cornucopia wasn't like a first-year event," says Whistler Resort Association assistant media guru Laura Street of the overwhelmingly positive response to the three-day wine and food extravaganza, Nov. 7-9. All 14 winemakers dinners sold out. Fourteen of 19 seminars sold out. "People liked the options, the activities and the formal events and told us not to change a thing 'cause they want to come back," Street says. The Crush! opening night gala attracted 650 to the Chateau Whistler's Macdonald ballroom. There they tippled whites, reds, rosés and ice wines from British Columbia south to California while stovetop-hatted chefs worked like Keystone Kops to whip together immediate delicacies before the hard eyes of celebrity judges during the Culinary Grand Prix. "Everyone was raving about how much fun they had at Crush!," Street says. Certainly the Western Canadian Pediatric AIDS Society was wowed. The organization was the recipient charity for the Crush! event, earning more than $5,000 from the auction. The total amount collected from the night's proceedings hasn't been calculated yet. "I couldn't have asked for a better event to be a part of," says director Maxine Druker. "We had to turn people away from the door." Representatives of other AIDS support groups attended the evening and were impressed enough to want to participate next year, Druker says. Money raised by the society will go toward a recreational camp to allow children to get away from the stress of being in a family dealing with AIDS. "It was an interesting dynamic working with my board who were not familiar with the Whistler style of getting things done," Druker says. "I'd also like to thank the volunteers who helped out, often at the last minute," Druker says. "I couldn't run an organization like this without the support of the community." The Cornucopia survivors, all 250 of them, crowded into the Whistler Conference Centre to cap off the weekend for the Vintners Brunch — "A Sunday in Sonoma" — where 16 Sonoma County wineries offered their best among a selection of omelettes, seafood, venison and chops prepared by the Delta Whistler Resort. The WRA estimates that at least 1,000 came to Whistler just for Cornucopia. The WRA itself sold 130 vacation packages tied to the event. Each of those included a survey asking for responses. "We got 50 per cent of the surveys back and every single one said they wanted to come back," Street says. "They all said Cornucopia exceeded their expectations." The WRA will have met with participating restaurants and hotels this past week to get a post-event kitchens-eye view of how it all worked. In a village where a lot of crabbiness can develop among food and beverage operations who are "in" or "out" of a festival, Street says restaurants that didn't have winemakers dinners did well, too. "If people were in the resort for other reasons, they had fewer restaurants to choose from and so went to those who weren't participating," Street says. The WRA expects Whistler will get a lot of positive post-Cornucopia exposure from the out-of-town media types in attendance. Among those were the usual gang of food editors from the Vancouver Sun and Province dailies; other publications such as Vancouver magazine, Vancouver Courier, and North Shore News; as well as area and national radio in the form of CFUN and CBC's Don Genova and Dick Gordon from the Toronto scene. The CBC TV folks were at Crush!, too, to film an episode of the Great Canadian Food Show to air sometime in 1998.