Longview Wine Festival

Deann Marney pours a glass of 2015 pinot noir by Landon Winery during the Longview Wine Festival benefitting the East Texas Alzheimers Alliance, on Saturday April 28, 2018, at The Green.

The East Texas Alzheimer’s Alliance plans to make this year’s Longview Wine Festival bigger and better, after a successful first year that helped the organization begin expanding services. Visitors can enjoy food, live music and wine tastings with more than 10 wineries from noon to 6 p.m. April 27 at Longview’s newest park, The Green.

“[The festival] is very important to the community in the role that it supports the Alliance, but it also is a fantastic community event for Longview residents, as well as many from outside of Longview,” Board President Kristen Ishihara said. “It is an event that I hope our whole community is proud of.”

In late January, confirmed wineries included Los Pinos, Landon Winery, White Fox, Enoch’s Stomp, Red Road, Vino Pazzo, Naca Valley, Silver Lake Cellars, O’Farrell and San Ducerro Vineyards. The Alliance also plans to include activities for children and dogs to make the event as family friendly as possible.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive mental deterioration that involves memory loss and confusion. It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, with no cure. Many members of the Alliance have experience with the disease’s devastating effects personally and/or professionally.

“As an elder law attorney, I see the need for the resources the Alliance offers on a daily basis,” Ishihara said. “Just having someone to reach out to after getting a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia that can help walk you through the process and provide information and education is so important and has been something that is lacking in our community.”

As the primary fundraiser for the operations of the Alzheimer’s Alliance, earnings at the wine festival will allow the group to continue expanding services and resources to families affected by Alzheimer’s.

“If Longview has a population of 80,000, then right at 8,000 families are affected by this disease,” founding board member Nelda Strong said. “Being a caregiver is something like working a jigsaw puzzle without a picture — you try to put pieces together and see what happens. There are families who go into bankruptcy, families who have to quit their jobs in order to take care of a family member with the disease. So our goal is to offer support groups and care, and education for the caregivers in the family.”

In 2018, about 2,500 people attended the festival, which grossed more than $100,000 and allowed the Alliance to hire its first executive director. This year, the Alliance is setting a limit of 1,000 VIP tickets, and the group expects to sell another 1,500 in general admission. The group’s goal is to gross $150,000 this year, including sponsorships and ticket sales.

“After the event last year, there were people coming to us saying, ‘This is so much fun. We would like to volunteer and work next year,’’’ Strong said. “It was a beautiful, beautiful spring afternoon, and we just had a wonderful time.”

General admission tickets are $25 and come with five tasting tickets, while VIP tickets are $75 and come with unlimited tastings and a signature Wine Festival laser engraved glass. More information can be found at etxalz.org or the group’s Facebook page.

“We will continue to expand our services to provide additional support groups and respite care on a daily basis and overnight basis, and I look forward to being able to provide these very important resources to families in our community,” Ishihara said. “We are very grateful for the support the community has given us — both at the Wine Festival and directly to the Alliance. We have many community partners that are committed to the same goals that we are and we appreciate them very much.”