For the first time since before the pandemic, the 13th annual “Wine Affair – Wine, Beer, and Cheer” event was held with virtually no restrictions, allowing patrons to wine, dine and socialize mask-free down Main Street in Newhall.
The event was hosted by the Soroptimists, an international organization that promotes economic opportunity and social mobility to women and girls. Although the event was designed to raise money for the organization, it also was meant to draw crowds to the many local businesses along Main Street — many of which have been economically impacted by the pandemic.
“So the event is essentially a sip, stroll and savor down Main Street so people can go into a bunch of different venues. And they can sample restaurants from all over the Santa Clarita Valley,” said Maggie Gaughan, co-chair of Soroptimist of Greater Santa Clarita Valley. “They can sample wineries, breweries, cocktails, and we have Sushi On Main doing Saki… El Trocadero doing Margaritas, and The Junction is doing mint juleps.”
Shane Bothwell, general manager of The Old Town Junction, said The Junction had two “killer years” before the pandemic hit, which forced them to switch gears.
“We adapted [and] persevered through it and started modifying our menu, doing takeout. We actually were serving groceries at one point, like just to help the community,” said Bothwell. “It’s great to have everyone back and seeing smiling faces… I feel like we’re hitting another gear, you know, getting through those trials and tribulations and retaining a lot of our staff who all came back for the most part.”
Patrons were able to walk down Main Street where the event had “stops” at certain businesses, where booths were set up so guests could sample some of their food and even free signature wine, beer and cocktails.
Cherie McGraham, owner of Smokehouse on Main, said the extra foot traffic the event has brought is crucial to the business’s recovery.
“We had to close three different times because we can’t make it on takeout and delivery here,” said McGraham. “I think the more foot traffic we get, on this street specifically because it’s the oldest part and it’s become like a destination area, it helps people that have never tried my food, try it and go on coming back here.”
Santa Clarita Councilwoman Marsha McLean was also in attendance and said that from what she gathered, people were very happy to be in a somewhat pre-pandemic environment.
“Especially after what we’ve been through the past two years, people are so grateful to be out and about,” said McLean. “People are so happy to be able to come out without masks on their faces, and just to be able to speak to one another and people have really been joyful, to tell you the truth, being able to come to this event, and I applaud Soroptimist for putting it on.”
Soroptimist representatives said that although this may be the first fully in-person Wine Affair since the pandemic began, they seemed confident that it wouldn’t be the last and that the annual event will continue for the foreseeable future.