Foodies flock to Whistler festival By Oona Woods Package sales for the second annual Cornucopia food and wine festival have already topped the 200 mark. This is in comparison to the 120 sold altogether last year. The special package, available through the WRA, includes tickets to the opening evening gala Crush!, food and wine seminars, winemakers dinners, and accommodation at local high end hotels for $349. "And we have almost a month to go," notes Cornucopia creator and team leader Dana Samu from the WRA. "I think the reason behind this is the success of last year. Word of mouth is the most reliable form of marketing and the hardest to obtain. It’s also the most valuable. On our customer feedback forms from last year the most recurrent theme was ‘Don’t change a thing,’ written in capital letters and everything. They all wanted to be able to tell all their friends and come back to have it exactly how it was... 97 per cent said that we had met or exceeded their expectations. One hundred per cent — which is unprecedented — said they would come back. This speaks to what we are seeing now in terms of numbers. So I think that when you do something right once, a lot of the marketing is done for you." Cornucopia is the only food and wine event dedicated exclusively to the Pacific West Coast region. "And we have a great deal to celebrate," explains Samu. "From our incredible diversity of indigenous ingredients, to our unprecedented concentration of culinary and wine-making talent populating the stretch from Vancouver to San Francisco, to our unique attitude towards food and its relationship to our lifestyle." Last year Crush! sold out all of it’s 800 tickets (half of the allotted tickets have been sold already this year) and all of the 15 winemakers dinners also were at capacity. Both the seminars and the Sunday brunch were 75 per cent full. All in all, Samu calculates that 2,000 foodies took part in the festivities last year. So what is behind this success? "I almost felt that in creating the event we were filling a vacuum," says Samu. "There was a need and desire for the event before we created it. There was almost a sense of release of pent up anticipation that people welcomed the opportunity with. If you study marketing trends, food and wine events are just exploding right now. It’s like the craft fairs of the ’70s. With food and wine it is indulging, but educational. It’s a bit decadent, but you have permission to play. "The time frame is really perfect. In the spring people are thinking of their waistlines and fitting into that bikini. In the fall people are looking towards the ski season and you can afford a little bit of winter insulation... It’s that cold crisp autumn afternoon with a dusting of snow on the mountains... conducive to cuddling up by the fire with a glass of voluptuous red wine and something sinfully laden with chocolate."