By JIM VOREL | H&R Staff Writer

DECATUR — The Decatur Area Arts Council’s annual wine and food-tasting event, Corks and Forks, has been very good to the organization for going on 13 years.

Each year, Corks and Forks fills the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel to near capacity, serving as both a social gathering and a chance to experience the world of wine and support local arts. And when you’ve got an event with that kind of reputation, you don’t mess too much with the formula from year to year.

Just ask Cathy Briggs, now beginning her first year organizing the event.

“I shadowed Susan Jess closely last year as she organized it for the final time, and I decided that most of the aspects of the event should stay the same,” said Briggs of the 13th Corks and Forks, which will be held Thursday, April 25, at its usual location. “However, I also want to make at least one thing new every year. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel, but at the same time we can add new flair.”

This year, the most noticeable new feature is the creation of a separate “VIP” ticket tier at $100, twice the cost of the regular $50 tickets. The very limited tickets include sit-down tastings of wine and food pairings, and have already sold out according to Jess. Pre-sales have also been strong on the regular tickets, although any still available will be sold the day of the event for $55 at the door. For the first time, a hard limit on tickets is also being imposed, designed to ensure the event never becomes too crowded. It might be an odd thought to limit tickets to a fundraiser, but according to arts council director Jerry Johnson, maintaining an enjoyable event for everyone is the most important thing.

“We’re proud that this has become more than just a fundraising event,” he said. “We think of it as a spring tradition in Decatur. It’s not a super fancy or exclusive event, certainly not something with a black-tie mentality. It’s just a night to enjoy wine and food with your friends.”

In addition to the introduction of the VIP tickets, there will be a few other new features to this year’s Corks and Forks. The usual 50/50 raffle will be replaced with a “wine pull” designed to yield more overall winners. For $20, attendees can chose a cork at random, some of which will win them bottles of wine. Other features like the annual silent auction will return more or less unchanged, with their usual assortment of items that include sports tickets, dinners, jewelry and artwork.

“I think Corks and Forks is something people really look forward to and enjoy being at year after year,” Briggs said. “It’s a really big networking and mingling event for a lot of people. We like to say it’s the social event of the season.”

jvorel@herald-review.com|(217) 421-7973

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