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There was a tsunami evacuation, high wind warnings and local flooding, yet hundreds of wine and food lovers from around the Northwest braved the threat of natural disaster to attend Savor Cannon Beach, March 10-13. Many attendees arrived Thursday for the Oregon versus Washington Wine Throwdown. They tasted six Oregon wines and six Washington wines, head to head by varietal, and voted on their favorites. At the end of the evening, Washington wines had edged out a 4-2 victory, but 7000 miles away, a natural disaster was brewing.
Overnight, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake in Japan dealt a devastating blow to that country and now threatened the west coast of the US with a tsunami. Festival revelers, other visitors and locals were awakened in the early morning hours to prepare for evacuation to higher ground. The town was cleared and most waited for hours on higher ground nearby to see what would happen. By late morning, it was becoming apparent the tsunami threat would only be a modest event for the north coast of Oregon.
Despite a mostly sleepless night, Savor Cannon Beach events resumed Friday afternoon without missing a beat. During the evening several restaurants hosted wine dinners. Saturday afternoon then defied weather forecasts offering a beautiful day for the Winter Wine Tour, an event benefitting a local charity, where dozens of wineries offer tastings at businesses throughout town.
As if trying to demonstrate symmetry, the event that started with a high wind warning Thursday ended with another high wind warning Sunday morning. Strong gusts of wind made trees dance as festival attendees toasted their good fortune at a sparkling wine tasting and brunch bite event. "It is likely we would have had a much larger event without the weather challenges and potential threat of natural disaster," said Gary Hayes, publisher of Coast Explorer Magazine and the event's coordinator. "Some hotel guests who came for the event, left after the evacuation and others planning on the weekend cancelled their reservations after hearing of the tsunami warning, according to our lodging sponsors." Still, Hayes was pleased with the turnout at festival events. "The non-profit Cannon Beach Children's Center and Preschool made their fundraising goal for their Winter Wine Tour and hundreds of attendees have one amazing weekend to remember," he adds.
Next year's Savor Cannon Beach is already scheduled for March 8-11, 2012. Odds are the weather will be better, but there are no guarantees on the wild Oregon Coast.