WineFest began in 2001 as a simple fundraising idea from one of Tampa Theatre’s esteemed Board Members. Not long after, the seeds for Gone With the Wine were planted, and an eager volunteer committee got to work.
After several successful years as a one-night Wine Tasting, interest in the annual event had grown to the point that the Theatre made a few changes to the format and added an intimate Wine Seminar. This small, informative event became extremely popular and quickly outgrew the Theatre’s capacity to host it on-site. The Seminar evolved into a Wine Pairing Dinner and moved to the Mise en Place dining room, where it was held for several years. This year, the Friday night event will return to Tampa Theatre, and for the first time ever the Wine Pairing Dinner will be hosted under the stars on a special extension of Tampa Theatre’s historic stage.
In 2009, after discussions with some of the loyal local restaurants who participated in the Saturday night Wine Tasting, the Theatre decided that the event should showcase local, independently owned restaurants exclusively. The idea was quickly embraced by the community, and the WineFest committee has stuck with the concept ever since, believing that it gives the event a distinct, authentically “Tampa” experience.
Over the past 12 years, the popular annual fundraiser has grown from a simple Wine Tasting event in 2002 to a three-day affair that has reintroduced the Wine Seminar and added a new Sunday Wine Brunch, on top of the Wine Pairing Dinner and original Tasting.
And along the way, WineFest has raised nearly a half million dollars for Tampa Theatre’s artistic and educational programs, helping to fund more than 600 show times each year of contemporary films, classic movies, school field trips and an acclaimed Summer Filmmaking Camp for kids.