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Spring Fling evolving into a 10-day festival

GRANGER - Spring Barrel tasting may be more than six months away, but area chambers of commerce are already starting to look ahead to the annual event as they makes plans for the next Spring Fling festival.

Thursday afternoon, Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce Director of Promotions and Tourism Kathy Corliss talked to members of the Granger Chamber of Commerce about the 2005 event and the work that is already going into it.

Corliss said Spring Fling is an event that has brought together chambers of commerce from Wapato to Benton City. She explained that the Yakima Valley chambers are working together to organize a 10-day festival that will attract those who are visiting the area for Spring Barrel tasting to stay and enjoy what the Valley has to offer.

Corliss said since the inception of Spring Barrel tasting, the event has grown to such a magnitude that area wineries are beginning to expand, what was once a one weekend event, into a two weekend affair. She said wineries found that as Spring Barrel tasting grew they weren't able to spend the one-on-one time with their customers. Now, wineries are beginning to invite their VIP customers to attend a pre-barrel tasting event the weekend before.

And it's that expansion of Spring Barrel tasting that the local chambers are trying to build on.

Corliss explained that local businessman Tom Denlea, who recently opened the Best Western Grapevine Inn in Sunnyside, brought the idea of a Valley-wide festival to the forefront after observing the Tulip Festival that takes place every year in the Skagit Valley. Corliss said Denlea noted that the communities in that area worked together to fill the 13 days of the Tulip Festival with a variety of activities.

"So when people are in town for the Tulip Festival, they have something to do that isn't necessary tulip [related]," Corliss said. She added that as a result of the combined efforts the festival brings $16 million in tourism revenue into the Skagit Valley.

She said the Spring Fling festival can serve as a way for the communities in the Yakima Valley to take advantage of the many visitors who come into the area for Spring Barrel tasting. Corliss admitted that when planning for the festival first started, the different communities involved were a little territorial. However, as time has gone by the communities have realized that working together is what is important when it comes to making the festival a success.

"It has been a great process," Corliss said.

At this point, Corliss said the group of chambers involved in coordinating the Spring Fling festival are working on preparing the calendar of events. She encouraged any organization interested in putting together an event to come forward.

"We're excited about it," she said, noting that the event is already starting to see growth.

Other business that took place during the Granger Chamber of Commerce meeting yesterday included the presentation of a check to the Granger Aquatics Committee. Chamber President Mary Kresse presented a check for $500 to the committee, challenging 10 other people to donate $100 each, which two members did. To date, the Granger Aquatics Committee has raised $5,860 toward a new pool facility for the community.

To help raise additional funds, the committee is hosting a yard sale at the Lions Club building at 109 E. A St. in Granger, Saturday, Oct. 23, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Donations for the yard sale are being accepted at the site from noon to 5 p.m. today (Friday).

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