By Meagan Friberg
Steve Cass, owner of Cass Winery and the driving force behind the Paderewski Festival, a new summer symphony and fireworks event, Paso Pops, was celebrated by proponents of the local art community, friends, and family during ARTFEST’s annual Sweet Art luncheon fundraiser held at Studios on the Park. As the 2016 ARTSFEST Sweet Art honoree, Cass was humble as ever when asked about being recognized for his generous spirit.
“Some guys will say they don’t need a lot of pats on the back or thanks,” Cass said, “but if you’re a human being you need just a little bit, and this is a really nice thing that the people with ARTSFEST are doing by bestowing this honor on me. I very much appreciate it.”
Dan Shadwell, KSBY news anchor and Master of Ceremonies for the event, teamed up with Sweet Art event hostess Dee Lacey to welcome guests, conduct VIP introductions, and recognize Cass for his contributions to local arts and youth programs including the Paderewski Festival.
“Along with Joel Peterson and others, I have been doing the Paderewski Festival for about 10 years now and there are really a lot of other people that deserve this kind of thanks,” Cass said.
The oldest of seven children, Cass was born in Springfield, Illinois, and earned his degree in finance from the University of Illinois. After retiring from a career with Charles Schwab, he and his wife, Alice, chose to settle in Paso Robles where they started Cass Winery. He became involved with Studios on the Park from the beginning, according to Lacey, and helped to revitalize the Paderewski Festival.
“Steve was born in Springfield,” Lacey said, “but in his heart he’s a Paso Roblan.”
Joel Peterson, grandson of the original Paderewski Festival’s founder, Virginia Peterson, serves on the Festival Board with Cass. Showering his friend with praise, Peterson called Cass “a big thinker.”
“Steve reminds me somewhat of my grandmother who started the original Festival back in 1990,” Peterson said. “She didn’t really ask, she just told people ‘this is what you’re doing’ and that’s the same with Steve. He is cut from the same cloth of people that give back to the local community. It’s been an honor to work with Steve for the past 10 years on the new Paderewski Festival. He’s full of new ideas and he always comes up with fun things that he wants to do to get the community involved, grow the festival even in terms of a statewide or nationwide scope, and get more children involved.”
Studios on the Park Board President Barbara Partridge and her team of volunteers set about to “put the fun in fundraising” during the Sweet Art event as guests took in the Mardi-Gras themed décor and a scrumptious lunch prepared by Cass Winery Catering. Partridge spoke of Cass being “unrivaled in his support of the arts in Paso Robles. His past support of ARTSFEST includes sponsorship, catering, wine donations and overall support.”
“Sweet Art is our key to success for ARTSFEST 2016,” Partridge said, addressing the crowd, “and we’d like to encourage everyone to give until it feels good. With your gifts, we can help keep admission to the festival free to all.”
After pledge cards were rounded up, organizers announced that more than $27,300 had been raised – the funds will help to ensure the success of this year’s ARTSFEST as an expected 10,000 attendees turn out to enjoy visual, musical and performing arts during Memorial Weekend 2016 at no cost. All tax-deductible funds raised during the Sweet Art luncheon were dedicated to ARTSFEST in honor of Cass.
“This community is great about giving back and partnering people that are new to the area with those that have been around for many generations,” Cass said. “Everyone seems to work together quite seamlessly and I think that’s one of the nice things about this community – everyone that is new to the area is made to feel welcome and that is something that Alice and I appreciate.”
About PASO ARTSFEST
PASO ARTSFEST celebrates the visual and musical arts each Memorial Day weekend. Free to the public, the 2016 art festival in the Paso Robles City Park on Saturday, May 28 will feature artists in action and hands-on art for all ages, including a quick-draw, fine art show, art activities, music, and dance performances. Other weekend events include an art auction dinner and an outdoor art film; go to www.PASOARTSFEST.com for more info.