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story.lead_photo.caption Sarah Falasco is chairman of Wine & Food FEASTival, an annual event for Wildwood Park for the Arts. The fun starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Wildwood, 20919 Denny Road in west Little Rock. Falasco says the small, intimate affair is definitely not “stuffy.” - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

It's off the beaten path, tucked away in the woods of west Little Rock.

But for people who know it's there and make the effort to get there, Wildwood Park for the Arts is a feast for the eyes, offering a lake, winding paths to unexpected gardens and waterfalls and, on Friday, a treat for the taste buds.

This is the 20th year for the annual Wine & Food FEASTival, a fundraiser featuring edible and potable tastings in a nice but relaxed environment.

Sarah Falasco, volunteer and chairman of the FEASTival, says, "There are opportunities to enjoy the evening with music, with friends, with lightheartedness."

Guests will be greeted with decorations, music and "definitely a lot of different aromas."

More than 10 area restaurants are contributing to the food supply this year, including Arthur's and Oceans, Taziki's, Blue Cake Co., the Capital Hotel and Boulevard Bread Co.

The libations, supplied by Glazier's, will include over 100 wines and more than 20 different spirits. Local liquor stores will also help with the drinks and pairing the drinks and foods for palate-pleasing combinations.

The Greasy Greens band will set up on Wildwood's stage where there will also be tables and space for dancing.

Falasco explains that while the food and drinks are top-notch, it's not a stuffy affair. The atmosphere is light. And it's not stifling either.

"It's a small, intimate kind of crowd," she says, pointing out that ticket sales are capped at 500 and the normal tally tops out at 350.

"It's not elbow-to-elbow. You can enjoy the evening. Sometimes we just need a real relaxed, fun environment that's not far away from home that benefits a great cause."

There will also be a wine pull and silent auction.

People who have been before will find the same sort of atmosphere they've found before.

"We're just trying to build on the success we've had in the past," Falasco says. "We're not trying to reinvent the wheel. A lot of my friends in the past that have come have absolutely loved it. I don't think there's anything that we'd want to 'change' change."

Their goals remain the same: to draw people to the park and to raise money for Wildwood's programs.

"We're kind of tucked away," Falasco says. "We're not in the middle of things like the [Arkansas] Arts Center. It's more difficult to get people through the door to see these kinds of activities. When we can get people in through the front door, they're kind of amazed that this is all out here."

Falasco, who has lived all over the country and now calls the Ferndale area home, got involved at Wildwood as a Master Gardener and as a member of the Chenal Elementary School PTA. The school is practically next-door and Wildwood is very involved with it and other schools in the Pulaski County Special School District.

"This is by far the place we want to make our ... home," she says. "We just love it. This is just a magical place."

Wildwood Park's grounds are extensive, with several trails and special gardens, and it takes work, provided by the Arkansas Master Gardeners, to keep it up. The grounds are free and open to everyone for photos, picnics, or just an outing to get fresh air or walk the dog in a quiet place.

In addition to its meticulously maintained grounds and gardens, Wildwood also hosts theatrical and musical performances and art exhibits such as the current one of Caldecott Medal-winning book covers.

A large portion of the money goes to Wildwood's summer music program, WAMA (Wildwood Academy of Music & The Arts), in which professional faculty members teach young artists ages 6-18 in vocal or instrumental music.

"It's awesome because it works with kids, especially kids who are college-bound and see a future in music in the arts," Falasco says. "It gives them that springboard to continue on with their passion."

Wildwood is also very involved in PCSSD, sending artists into classrooms to help teachers with alternate teaching methods and to get kids engaged not just in the arts, but in more traditional school subjects in unorthodox ways.

"There's a strong correlation between the arts and science," Falasco says. "I think it goes hand in hand with building the next generation of confident young people. That's something we take very seriously. Kids are a huge motivator for us."

And Wildwood is always looking for more volunteers.

"If you're not wild [about] going out and picking up sticks or weeding like a Master Gardener might, there's stuff inside," Falasco says.

The trick, though, as Falasco says, is getting people onto the property to discover all it has to offer.

"There's always something here people can find to do, any season."

The Wine & Food FEASTival is 6:30-9 p.m. Friday at Wildwood Park for the Arts, 20919 Denny Road, Little Rock. Tickets are $65 until Monday, then $75 after that. Call (501) 821-7275 or visit wildwoodpark.org.

Photo by Staton Breidenthal
Sarah Falasco is getting ready for Friday’s Wine & Food FEASTival for Wildwood Park for the Arts. Falasco, the event’s chairman, says some of Little Rock’s top tier restaurants will serve up bites that will be paired with libations.

High Profile on 06/10/2018

Print Headline: Discover park, fill senses, FEASTival chairman says

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