By Hayley Thomas
One hundred thirty-seven community members, wine industry professionals, local leaders and art appreciators attended Tuesday’s fundraising luncheon for the 2013 Festival of the Arts held at Studios on the Park. Photo by Hayleyâ€ˆThomas.
In a syrupy sweet showing of support, more than 100 community members gathered at Studios on the Park for the Sweet Art Fundraising Luncheon celebrating Festival of the Arts Marshal, philanthropist and unofficial “godfather” of Paso Robles wine, Gary Eberle on Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Funds from the benefit will support the colorful arts festival, now in its fourth year in Downtown City Park. As of press time, $27,000 was raised for the event noted for its staggering stilt walkers, face painters, musical petting zoo and plein art quick draw.
This year’s festival is slated for Saturday, May 25.
As 2013 marshal, Eberle was honored for his hand in bringing notoriety to Paso Robles Wine Country — and Paso Robles — as a whole.
"It would not be a reach to say that Gary has helped put Paso Robles on the map," said Dee Lacey, who noted that Eberle made his appearance on the scene before the area had really begun to realize its full potential.
"Gary had a vision, and 20 years later, just look where we're sitting. We're eating lunch at one of the premiere art galleries in the county, if not the state. Down the street, there's a multi-screen theater ... we're surrounded by some of the finest restaurants in the county, and we're here today to raise money for an art festival that brings in almost 10,000 people," said Lacey. "We're here today to say 'thank you' to Gary Eberle for dreaming and for his commitment to an industry that has made Paso Robles a destination."
Event chair Barbara Partridge also took to the stage, with supervisor Frank Mecham performing master of ceremonies duties.
Eberle thanked his many friends in the wine industry. he also gave a nod to local leaders like Tom Martin and Herman Schwartz.
In the 1970s, professors at Davis University told Eberle that Paso Robles was poised to become the next great red wine-producing region.
"I came to Paso Robles in May of 73; I had completed all my coursework for my PhD and was about 18 months away from finishing my dissertation and getting my doctorate, and I'm still about 14 months away from finishing," Eberle said with a laugh.
Eberle talked about the "old days" in Paso Robles, "when the finest restaurant in town" was Wilson's Diner.
On Saturday night, at 6:30 p.m., you could have any parking spot on the park you wanted," he said. "Now, Paso Robles is starting to approach its potential. We have always been an agricultural community. If it hadn't been for grapes, I feel this community would have had a hard time becoming more than Spreckles, Calif., if you've driven through. The wine industry is responsible for some great things in Paso - the great restaurants, the great hotels, the art galleries, just the whole ambiance of the city."
In closing, Ebrle said he was humbled by the honor.
"I am so proud of this community and so proud of where this community has come in 40 years. I am very grateful that people out there think I had a role to play in it," said Eberle. "Paso Robles has become more than a place on the map now and something all of us have the right to be very proud of."
For more information, go to www.pasoartfestival.com