Posted on April 19 2016
The 16th Annual Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival held recently in Doswell, Virginia set record attendance numbers. The two-day event saw upwards of a 10 percent increase in attendance over last year, which was “a great development considering the festival was in a brand new location,” adds festival director Beau Beasley.
Read more in the press release below.
Virginia Fly Fishing Festival Sets Attendance Record
Warrenton, VA: The 16th Annual Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival (VFFF), held on April 9 and 10 at its new location (Meadow Event Park, 20 miles from Richmond) in Doswell, Virginia, enjoyed record attendance, according to Festival Director Beau Beasley. “We saw thousands of attendees over the course of the weekend–more than a 10 percent increase in attendance over last year and a great development considering the festival was in a brand new location. It is not uncommon for events in new venues to actually see a dip in attendance. It turns out that moving inside a state-of-the-art event building right off of Interstate 95 really paid off. Some of our attendees came from as far away as Rhode Island, Georgia, Ohio–and even Minnesota!”
The VFFF began in 2000 in Waynesboro as a way to introduce tourists and particularly fly anglers to the South River, which runs through the town in the bucolic Shenandoah Valley. Over the past decade and a half the outdoor festival grew from a single-tent event to one that required a series of smaller and larger tents. This year, the festival was almost entirely under roof for the first time. Also over the past six years the festival has incorporated wine tasting from local Virginia wineries; this year the event was sponsored by SweetWater Brewery from Atlanta, Georgia, and all proceeds benefited Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing.
From its inception the festival has featured expert instruction; today it offers hands-on fly casting and fly tying instruction at all levels, including instruction especially focused on women and children. “From our standpoint,” says Casey Peltier, Co-Program Coordinator for Casting For Recovery Mid-Atlantic Region, “the festival’s efforts to involve women made quite a difference. There were lots of women among the visitors who perhaps didn’t go to any talks or classes, but nevertheless enjoyed what they saw, and they were gracious enough to stop and find out what Casting for Recovery was all about. We sold far more merchandise than we ever have before, all of it targeted to women and children, so the festival’s emphasis on women really paid off for us.”
Major sponsors of the festival included TakeMeFishing.org, a division of the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation; Temple Fork Outfitters; Orvis; and Green Top Sporting Goods. Among this year’s brand new sponsors was Wild River Outfitters, which hosted a kayak demo area where customers could try out kayaks before settling on one to purchase. Despite cool temps at the kayak pond, which was located outside near the wineries, brewery, live music, and curated food trucks, there were lines to try out a variety of products from NuCanoe Kayaks.
The International Federation of Fly Fishers (IFFF) sponsored a large instructional fly casting and fly tying component of the event. “This was the first year the IFFF, through the national office, supported the event,” says Len Zickler, spokesman for the IFFF’s Chairman of the Board Committee. “From our perspective the results were beyond all expectations. Attendance was remarkable, the contacts we made with new members and local fly shops was appreciated, and the connections we made with potential vendors for future events was excellent.”
Colby Trow, co-owner of Mossy Creek Fly Fishing and a longtime festival speaker, commented with typical succinctness: “This year’s festival was absolutely epic. We will be returning!”
“We hated to leave the South River in Waynesboro and all the kind folks in town,” says Beasley, “but we really didn’t have any choice. The festival grounds are under renovation there. And even with the largest tent we could find, we simply didn’t have enough room for new vendors. I am pleased to say that this new venue allowed us to increase our vendor participation by a whopping 35 percent. We now have well over 100 vendors.”
The 17th Annual Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival will be held in Doswell at Meadow Event Park on April 8-9, 2017. For information on becoming a sponsor or vendor contact Festival Director Beau Beasley at Fishutopia@comcast.net.