Idyllwild Art Walk and Wine Tasting event brings welcome tourist return

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Chain saw artist David Roy on the lift sprays a protective coat of paint on his chain saw carved bear and wildlife wooden monument in the Idyllwild town square during the Oct. 12-13 weekend Art Walk and Wine Tasting event in the mountain community. Tony Ault photo

Thousands of visitors attended the 22nd annual Art Walk and Wine Tasting Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 12-13, in Idyllwild. The Idyllwild Town Square was crowded with dozens of visitors, their children and pets enjoying the perfect weather, fresh air, art displays, music and other entertainment sponsored by the Art Alliance of Idyllwild and more than a dozen area wineries who set up booths for wine tasting in the Town Center Court.

Leanna Lee, owner of the Idyllwild Bistro, guessed that her food and wine tasting venue brought in more than a 1,000 customers that day.

“Look at it right now,” she said Sunday, Oct. 12, pointing to her garden patio tables which were all filled with customers. “It was fantastic. Everyone behaved themselves and it was lots of fun.”

The festivities Sunday continued with wine tasting at the village wineries.

Key to the success of the Art Walk and Wine Tasting event was the complete opening of Highway 74 from Valle Vista in Hemet connecting with Mountain Center and Highway 243 to Idyllwild 10 minutes away.

Until the end of September, Caltrans contractors were working on repairing the Highway 74 that was partially washed away by the Feb. 14 rainstorm. The storm closed the highway completely for months and partially with escort services later. Highway 243 was also closed by the storm and remains closed from Banning to Lake Fulmor. For months, the closures cut off the main tourist routes to Idyllwild, on which the mountain community depends.

Highway 74 is now open with only a flagman to occasionally slow traffic on weekdays as final repairs are completed.

“It’s a great weekend.” Tamera Johnston, a clerk at Middle Ridge Winery in Idyllwild, said. “Having the roads open has been a great help.”

She said Middle Ridge Winery had joined with 18 other wineries and wine outlets in the village for the annual Art Walk and Wine Tasting weekend.

Zara McMullen, owner of the Earth and Fire Pottery Painting Shop, took timeout from helping her customers paint cast pottery items to say the weekend event “was great.

“Getting people to the mountain is always good,” she said referring to the Highway 74 opening. “The people are lovely.”

Charlie Lerner, a visiting Idyllwild watercolor artist from Rancho Mirage and longtime member of the Idyllwild Art Alliance, said she was particularly pleased with the numbers coming to the Art Walk and Wine Tasting.

“You should have seen it,” she said Sunday. “The courtyard was surrounded by wine tasting tents. The artists had all their easels up displaying their artwork. People were all-around us. We sold over 100 tickets (to the Saturday Art Walk) that day and were sold out of advance tickets. It was fabulous. Incredible turnout!”

The annual art walk is the main fundraising event each year for the nonprofit Idyllwild Art Alliance, and the event offers ticket holders bus rides around the entire village to visit each of the art galleries in town, meet the artists and enjoy continuous entertainment and food.

With Highway 74 from Hemet to Idyllwild, Idyllwild’s annual events continue to attract thousands of visitors to the mountain community with its many art galleries, specialty shops, mountain cabin rentals, restaurants, nightly entertainment, hiking and camping and many other outdoor activities. The village is surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest and San Jacinto Wilderness area.

Visit Idyllwild’s webpage for special events and details at www.idyllwildcalifornia.com.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.