The Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce (SMLRCC) has announced it is in the process of transferring ownership of the annual Smith Mountain Lake Wine Festival to a new non-profit organization.
Hook Lines and Singers, Inc. will organize and operate the event with proceeds donated to charities. This year’s festival is slated for Sept. 23-24 at Crazy Horse Marina.
Tim Reith, a local music enthusiast and owner of Mango’s Bar & Grill, formed the nonprofit in 2022 to help local and national songwriters showcase their talents while providing a venue to raise money for charities.
“We are looking at choosing one national and seven local charities with an aggressive goal of raising $5,000 to $10,000 for each this year,” Reith said. “We are honored that the SML Chamber is allowing us an amazing opportunity to help those in need.”
The SMLRCC has organized 32 wine festivals over the past 34 years, with the fundraiser canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. Executive Director Andy Bruns said while the festival has served the organization well over the years, the pandemic required the nonprofit pivot to a different business model.
“The Chamber continues to evolve and focus its efforts on member education, networking opportunities and government affairs,” Bruns said. “The Board of Directors feels it’s wise to use our efforts and energy to promote Smith Mountain Lake as a tourist destination through wide-reaching print and online advertising year-round as opposed to organizing a large-scale event one weekend per year.”
The SML Wine Festival started in 1988 as a way to extend the summer season and attracted about 100 visitors. Over the years, it grew into one of the largest events in the region, attracting some 10,000 people per day at its height.
Ryan Walters, Chairman of the SMLRCC Board, said Hook Lines and Singers inherits a sound business model, excellent reputation and a number of valuable assets, including positive vendor relationships, email database, the smlwinefestivial.com domain name and an inventory of physical items such as wine glasses, tote bags and lanyards.
“The Chamber will continue to offer guidance and insight during the transition period, and is eager to use its vast network to continue to promote the Wine Festival,” Walters said. “It is such a revered tradition for so many people that we want to do whatever it takes to ensure the festival continues on for many, many years.”
Those interested in finding out more about the SML Wine Festival and how to get involved as a volunteer, may visit smlwinefestivial.com or facebook.com/smlwinefestival.