Post By Eric Garcia, AMOA-Arthouse Visitor Relations Manager
The past week has been a multicolored, whirlwind blur complete with food and libations! Such is life during the week of one of AMOA-Arthouse’s two largest fundraisers. Our annual La Dolce Vita Food & Wine Festival, benefiting the museum’s education programs and The Art School, takes place on the second Thursday of each October (this year it happened to fall on 10.11.12!). As the Volunteer Chair for the 23rd annual festival, I’m just now winding down from six months of preparation with the help of a great team of people, including the near 300 volunteers who make this event possible.
For those unfamiliar with La Dolce Vita (LDV), picture Laguna Gloria on a beautiful fall night. The Lago di Como-themed event was a sold-out, smashing success, held on the sprawling 12-acre grounds of our site on the shores of Lake Austin. Fifty top-tier restaurants and almost a dozen wineries from around Austin and Central Texas made their home for the night in softly-lit tents lining the inner and outer perimeter of the site’s central oval. From 6-9pm, 1800 attendees are charged with nothing but tasting and indulging, sampling and relishing, mixing and mingling…in other words, savoring the sweet life! While a proper event recap is on the way (including photos), I wanted to take a look now at what happens before and after the festival itself.
Rewind to 10.10.12, the Wednesday preceding La Dolce Vita. It’s 9:30am and there’s movement and buzz already on the grounds at Laguna Gloria: the first volunteer set-up shift is slated to arrive. Our goal for the next day and a half is to have all the tents, tables and lights in place so that when the restaurants and wines arrive on Thursday, things are up and running, ready to receive the vendors. There are three separate volunteer shifts on Wednesday. Our set-up task includes over 50 tents and two separate sections of armatures to assemble and put in place, more than 100 tables and coolers to distribute, and lights to hang. We continue to work until almost 7pm on Wednesday, and then call it a night. At the end of the first day, we are right on schedule.
Thursday morning 10.11.12 rolls around, the day of the event, and we pick up right where we left off. There are so many minute details that we have to be aware of: properly stocking the sanitation kits for the restaurants, securing the tarps on the armatures, making sure we have all the napkins for the night, ensuring all the booth signs in the proper place, etc. Do we have a enough coolers with ice for the wine booths? Are all of the health permits in the right place? At 1pm, the restaurants and wineries begin to arrive. Systematically all of them pull in, unload, and set up. Our wonderful logistics team helps ensure this process runs smoothly. Meanwhile, our décor team busily adds the finishing touches with splashes of color and accoutrements, bringing the ambiance together. Though LDV officially starts at 6pm, we need to have everything in place and ready for the VIP portions kicking off at 5pm. We put the last laptop in place for will-call, double check that the shuttle parking signs are in place, give all of the check-in areas the necessary wristbands, and then it’s show time!
Our VIPs arrive and treat themselves to an hour of light bites and drinks on the terrace of the Driscoll Villa. At exactly 6pm, the front gates open and La Dolce Vita is officially underway. As attendees pass through the gates, they grab their plates, wine glasses, and maps for the night. Then it’s full on indulgence! DJ Manny sets wonderful, musical accompaniment for the event and the dance floor is packed. During the festival, we handle little things as they come up: people needing more ice and napkins, broken glass needs to be cleared, plates and glasses require tidying throughout. Before you know it, the clock strikes 9pm; LDV is a wrap, but the cleanup is just beginning. That night, we have big priorities for “beautification.” We gather the trash and recycling, break down tables and tents, and gather the wine bottles and coolers.
We call it a night a little after 11pm, only to call it a morning at 9:30am on Friday, 10.12.12. Our last volunteer shift arrived Friday and by 1pm it was like nothing ever happened. All the tents, tables, and trash are gone; the rented golf carts, dance floor, and furniture have all been picked up; recycling has taken care of empty bottles and cardboard boxes. We inventoried, cleaned and stored all the things the museum owns for the festival and closed the book on the 23rd chapter of the La Dolce Vita Food & Wine Festival.
Many thanks again to our incredible volunteers and tireless efforts to pull off one of the biggest and best social and culinary events of the season! Now time to count down to La Dolce Vita 2013…