It is suddenly mid-August and that endless summer no longer seems so endless.

Vacations wrap up and immediately the endless laundry begins. That venerable but hard-working swamp cooler coughs and burbles and survives just long enough before falling off its last leg.

And the start of school — oh, yeah, there's that — is at best a mixed blessing, depending on how family vacations went.

However, for the past three years or so, August also has become the month to finalize your plans for the Colorado Mountain Winefest presented by Alpine Bank.

Seriously, if you haven't yet discovered you no longer can procrastinate until September to get Wine-fest tickets, which this year is Sept. 13–16, you will be outside looking in at the ever-popular main event, the Festival in the Park on Sept. 15 at Palisade's tree-shaded Riverbend Park.

"This will be the fourth year we've sold out and we expect to have around 6,600 people in that park," said Cassidee Shull, executive director for the Colorado Association of Viticulture and Enology (CAVE).

Perhaps all those people won't all be there at the same time, so there will be plenty of room to wander about, visit the 60 or so wineries in attendance, eat lunch, stomp a few grapes and pretend that summer is just getting started.

Don't even think that just because you missed a general admission ticket that you can score one of the 350 VIP tickets. Those sold out in March, the earliest date so far.

Which causes us to think about what's behind Winefest's success.

First, there is the event's official name, which is Colorado Mountain Winefest presented by Alpine Bank. That last part about Alpine Bank, while a bit cumbersome as such titles tend to be, is important. It's not only reflective of the steady support the bank has given Winefest, but also an indication of the community support enabling Winefest to survive economically in a surprisingly competitive wine festival market.

Nearly 30 years ago, when what we know as Colorado Mountain Winefest began as an intimate gathering in Palisade's Town Park, the idea of there being a winefest, or even a wine industry, in Colorado was at times an eye-roller.

Today, you'll find wineries and wine festivals throughout Colorado, especially on the Front Range, which is where our local Winefest draws much of its attendance.

While those other festivals are enjoyable in the local sense, none of them are Winefest, which last year attracted fans from 47 states — missing were Alaska, Delaware and Arkansas, tsk, tsk — and five different countries.

Nor do the other festivals draw a similar number of wineries or the attention of national press.

"Mountain Winefest was named the Best Wine Festival in the Nation by USA Today in 2017," Shull said, with justifiable pride. "And it also received the Outstanding Community Tourism Initiative Award from the Colorado Governor's Conference" in October 2017.

Sure, Alpine Bank deserves thanks, but let's not forget the work by local tourist bureaus to make sure people know about Winefest and all those winemakers, grape growers and pickers who put western Colorado sunshine in a wine bottle.

And Winefest is not solely about wine, although that's where the emphasis is and should be.

There will be craft cider brewers, talented chefs, great musicians and numerous ancillary events that make Winefest so much more than a daylong wine binge.

There's also this: Winefest organizers each year are adding new winefest-oriented events for people unable to get Festival in the Park tickets.

"This year, we added a Wine Blending Workshop on Sept. 16 as well as a National Monument Wine Country Bus Tour," Shull said. "The bus tour will take guests over breathtaking Colorado National Monument and then for a tasting at three Western Slope wineries."

Tickets are still available for those events, as well as for the Grand Mesa Wine Country Bus Tour on Sept. 14.

Food and wine pairings at a number of area restaurants from Sept. 13–16 are another option for those without a Festival in the Park ticket. For these, no ticket is required, just stop by the participating restaurants.

So if that last-month-of-summer routine is getting the better of you, mark the third weekend of September on your calendar.

Unlike some summer memories, this one will bring smiles all winter.

All the information is available at coloradowinefest.com.

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