Corks were popping and beverages were flowing Saturday afternoon as crowds of people flocked to Sandyvale Memorial Gardens and Conservancy for the seventh annual Sandyvale Wine Festival.
“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year, so we’re really happy to see this crowd here and hopefully more people will be coming,” said Diana Kabo, secretary and event and educational programming coordinator for Sandyvale, a few minutes into the event.
“It’s a great community event and it helps us to accomplish the things we need to do here at Sandyvale.
“We offer educational programming for students all the way to seniors,” she said.
“We have to keep the beautification of the site up, so this helps us to do all of that.”
According to event organizers, the annual event typically attracts between 1,200 to 1,400 people each year, which helps to draw attention to the Hornerstown venue that solely served as a cemetery for decades.
“This was originally considered an abandoned cemeterial area,” Kabo said. “It was the largest green space in the city of Johnstown, and it’s the perfect place for passive recreation events like this.
“We have kids coming during the week to play pickup football games and flying kites, people walking the one-mile loop around Sandyvale, so it’s become – because of all of this activity and support – a community asset instead of an eyesore.”
Ebensburg resident Janice Eastbourn-Bloom volunteers at Sandyvale and attends the Wine Fest each year. Similar to Kabo, the Cambria County native believes Sandyvale is a great community resource, and hopes to see more people utilize the area.
“For me, what makes this special is having a chance to say ‘Isn’t this a gem that Johnstown has?’ I just love saying that to people and I love getting this positive feedback, because we need that,” said Eastbourn-Bloom, who was encouraged by a friend to come to Johnstown and volunteer at Sandyvale years ago.
This year’s Wine Festival featured 16 Pennsylvania wineries, more than 25 craft vendors, food supplied by local vendors, live musical entertainment, and Old Towne Distillery and Tall Pines Distillery were on hand to offer samples of their moonshine, rum and whiskey.
Bruce Penrod, of Miami, Florida, was standing in awe during the festival as he waited in line to get something fresh off the grill from Rayne’s Backyard Barbeque.
Penrod, who is originally from western Pennsylvania, was attending the festival for the first time on Saturday.
“I canoed on the Stonycreek River this morning, so that’s what brought me into the area,” Penrod said. “I love Pennsylvania. I love this area, and I’m already really impressed with this festival.
“I bought some things. I got some wine and some moonshine, and it’s nice to see old friends here,” he said. “I’ve never been on this property before and it’s beautiful. It’s really nice.”