Wine and food festival returns Sept. 25-29

It started with a dream and a glass of wine – and come September, will draw thousands to downtown Huntsville for a wine and food experience unlike any other in the Rocket City.

The sixth annual Crush Wine & Food Festival returns to Big Spring Park Saturday, Sept. 28, providing an opportunity for wine connoisseurs and casual partakers alike to choose from more than 150 wines to sample, as well as enjoy local live music and food trucks, and even get their toes wet with a little grape stomping.

“It’s a really great event to get out, support Huntsville, and enjoy some wine,” said Ashley Ryals, founder and organizer of the festival. “We’ve seen date nights, girls’ nights, supper clubs, you name it. It’s just a fun night to come downtown.”

But that’s not all. Saturday’s sampling is actually part of a five-day event that offers a little something for every palate and price point. A champagne kickoff party officially opens the festival at The Westin Huntsville Sept. 25, providing attendees with an opportunity to meet the movers and shakers who make Crush happen. Purveyor Chef Rene Boyzo and Johnny Dolan, a Huntsville native and the festival’s guest chef flown in from San Diego, will team up the following evening to create dinner pairings that will please wine and whiskey lovers alike at Purveyor. This year’s debut event, Whiskey and Wild Game, will take over Big Spring Park Friday, Sept. 27, where ticket holders can sample scotch, bourbon, whiskey and rums that complement Boyzo and Dolan’s wild game tastings. 

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All wine sales proceeds will benefit the Huntsville Hospital Foundation’s Crush Parkinson’s Fund, a cause near and dear to Ryals, who lost her grandmother to the disease. The number one goal this year is to raise enough money to hire a nurse navigator, who will help patients through a new diagnosis.

“My goal is to raise awareness and funding for it. We want this to be something that really makes a difference in our community,” Ryals said.

When Ryals founded her event planning business, Homegrown Huntsville, her aspirations included one day adding a wine festival to the Rocket City’s calendar.

What she didn’t realize, however, was how much of a demand there was for such a thing.

Unsure of how she’d get 1,000 people to buy tickets the first year, Ryals ended up selling out at 1,500, and the festival has only grown from there, both in ticket sales, and in events and offerings. All about “controlled growth,” Ryals, the brains and heart behind the festival, tirelessly works to ensure that the annual community event is driven by both quality and innovation. Hence this year’s whiskey and wild game night, which offers a “out of the box” menu, while answering a demand for spirits to be added to the sampling menu.

The result? Crush is no longer something fun for locals to do, but a reason to book a stay in the Rocket City. So much so that the Southeast Tourism Society has added it to their list of Top 20 Events in the Southeast for September 2019.

“We want to show people what Huntsville has to offer,” Ryals said. “We want to make this something that people can travel in from all over, and see what Huntsville has to offer through different venues and chefs, but at the same time we want to give Huntsvillians an experience that they can’t experience every day.”

Just for Scene readers: for $10 off all orders, use promo code SCENECRUSH.

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