Wine, Politics Join Pear Fest

Kate Ginley, Staff Writer

The annual Moraga Pear and Wine Festival was held at the Moraga Commons on September 27. This year’s event featured new election stands and a new name.

Modeled after Lafayette’s Arts and Wine Festival, local winegrowers were officially included in the celebration, necessitating the addition of “Wine” in the event title. Moraga Mayor Ken Chew described the new pairing as a “great opportunity to put it [pears and wine] together.”

Town council woman Kathe Nelson agreed. “Winegrowers are becoming a significant part of the community and it attracts [Lamorinda citizens],” she said.

Tony De Veunta, maker of Bullfrog Creek wine, explained that the American Viticultural Association, of which he is a member, suggested this idea 10 years ago. Speaking on behalf of other wine producers, Veunta said, “All think it has improved attendance; the ambiance is better. The atmosphere makes more people like coming out now.”

Ventura thinks the change will be permanent. “I’m sure [the festival] will always be this way, it’s stable.” Veunta explained that Moraga wine creators have applied to the American Viticultural Association as a specific wine growing region. “Once approved, we will be recognized as an AVA like Napa. People will go to ‘Lamorinda wine trail’!” 

According to town historian Richard Olsen, the council member stands were included at the festival because it is election year. “Candidates are here and it’s an opportunity for people to exchange views and get to know people who will lead Moraga in the future.”

Chew described the Pear Festival as a “chance for the community to come together and have fun,” but he would also like to fix some things about the event. “The [festival] is nice but I’d like to see a larger crowd and maybe more advertisements,” Chew said about the vendor and community group booths in the park.  The mayor also wants more participation from wine and food producers, as well as more craft tables like in past years.

Nelson said that Moraga has struggled to increase teen interest in the festival for years. “We need wacky games because there is not a whole lot for teenagers. We need something even if it’s just one part of the day.”

However, Nelson is also quick to defend the event’s current format. She said, “I think it’s [the festival] exactly what it should be. Everything is free except if you want to buy food.” Nelson hopes to make Moraga a great business community and wants the town to keep growing.

Resident Carrol Foxall, who has lived in Moraga for more than 20 years, said the Pear Festival is “focused on children and it would be nice if there were more activities for adults.”

According to Olsen, “[The Pear Festival] is a reminder of Moraga’s history. Moraga used to be an agricultural center before development occurred. It was filled with pear orchards and walnut trees.” 

“At one time, Moraga was the biggest pear export, which is why we have the Pear festival today,” said Foxall.

“People from communities come and join us and they have a good time because [the festival] creates a sense of community,” Foxall said.

Town historian Olsen said, “[The festival] brings the community together.”