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The third Southern Delaware Wine, Food and Music Festival, or SoDel Fest, dubbed the hippest on Delmarva, celebrates 17 local restaurants in addition to a selection of 30 libations from around the world. 

Guests are not just part of an event, they are provided a culinary experience, as they are serenaded by local musicians and get to witness a chef throwdown competition. 

Each year, a portion of the proceeds goes to three local charities that support local youth. 

Event Chairwoman Stacy LaMotta highlights the ins and outs of the festival.

The festival experience is one of three unique experiences. Can you briefly explain the Private Reserve and Learning Experience that you also offer?

The indulgent Private Reserve Experience begins on Friday, Oct. 6, with an exclusive six-course wine dinner prepared by Chef Doug Ruley of SoDel Concepts and led by Master Sommelier Larry O’Brien as well as Craig Ellick, ambassador of Stone Street Winery.

The red carpet treatment continues for these guests during the main festival with access to a VIP room with extra seating and wait staff. 

For those guests who wish to expand their personal knowledge of wine, we also have the Learning Experience, which can be added as an option to either the Private Reserve Experience or the Festival Experience tickets, but cannot be purchased as a standalone ticket.

Those joining us for the Learning Experience are granted one-hour early access to the main festival on Saturday, Oct. 7, as well as a sommelier guided tasting regarding the nuances between Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley wines, so from that day forward they can wow those in their personal networks with the knowledge they gained from our experienced and talented sommeliers.

What are some of the food tastings participants can look forward to this year?

At the SoDel Fest, the restaurant chefs are really outdoing themselves. Some of the pairings you will enjoy this year will include:

Blue Moon: Beef brisket stroganoff, Kennett Square mushrooms, handmade spätzle, horseradish, cream fraiche paired with wine.

DiFebo's: Fresh gnocchi with braised Italian porquette, broccoli rabe, sweet potato and sharp provolone cheese. Finished in a cherry pepper rosemary jus paired with wine.

Grandpa Mac's: Chicken alfredo and vegetarian chicken alfredo paired with jam cellers, "butter" paired with wine. 

What is the music lineup for this year?

This year we are so excited to bring you the best in local and regional musical talent. Shore Jazz has put together an amazing quartet along with special guest Peggy Raley. This performance includes the musical wealth of Joe Holt, piano; Mike McShane, drums; John Ewart, saxophone; and Paul Midiri, vibes. 

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We also have The Savannah Band, a powerhouse father-daughter duo featuring music that spans seven decades. Savannah's vocals are powerful and can move in any direction, from rock to jazz from Broadway to soul. 

Her stage presence and musicianship are beyond her years. In just one short year she has conquered the best stages at the beach and now moves on to her next challenge in NYC. Catch her while you can. 

Doug Ruley, vice president of culinary operations for SoDel Concepts, won the 2016 chef throwdown at the SoDel Fest. Who will be his competitor this year and what are some of the challenges they will have to present? 

Doug Ruley is up against some tough competition from Bryan Sikora, owner and executive chef of Hearth Kitchen, La Fia, Merchant Bar and Cocino Loco.

The theme is northern Delaware versus southern Delaware featuring a "Chopped"-style competition where the chefs are given a mystery basket of items that they must use to prepare a dish for the three judges in only 30 minutes.

Both chefs bring to the contest remarkable educational backgrounds and experiences in the culinary world which have built them well-deserved reputations as true craftsmen in their trade. 

Neither will know the contents of the cook-off baskets until they open them in front of our live audience during the festival. That is what makes this throwdown so awesome to watch because we get the immense privilege of witnessing these creative masterminds in that very special moment when what looks like ingredients to us becomes something absolutely divine.

Each year the festival gives back a portion of its proceeds to local community nonprofits. Who are this year’s beneficiaries that you will be supporting? 

As I built this festival, it began as my way of honoring and celebrating things that I love here in coastal Delaware, things that I wanted to share with others, showcasing how much I love the community and all its talents.

To make that celebration the most powerful, charities/ beneficiaries are selected each year that are doing fantastic work each day to impact lives here in Sussex County.

Over the past years, I am proud to say that SoDel Fest has raised $43,000 for local charities, and I look forward to continuing that important legacy. 

For 2017, the festival focuses on our youth, investing in the future of our area. The three beneficiaries for 2017 are Children and Families First, the Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation and the Delaware Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation.

Each organization, in its own unique and vital way, supports and encourages the youth of Sussex County to reach their fullest potential.

In your opinion, why is this considered one of the hippest wine, music and food festivals on Delmarva?

When someone describes something as “hip,” they are stating it is beyond expectations, better than the conventional. I would say that those who have attended SoDel Fest in the past have definitely felt that our festival exceeds their expectations.

Our guests have been very loyal to us, returning year after year, because they know first-hand we will always strive to be anything but conventional.

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Our chefs prepare tastings that are not just morsel bites and really showcase their creative talents; our musicians do not just play background music, they set the tone for true enjoyment; our wines, craft beers and spirits flow abundantly throughout the festival with each of our purveyors offering expansive knowledge of their products; and by offering a wine wall, a silent auction of truly enticing packages as well as a live chef throwdown between two extremely talented top chefs, SoDel Fest is anything but conventional.

Here is a fun question. Half empty or half full?

As the saying goes, it matters not whether your glass is half empty or half full, only that you are making the most of what is in it. We promise that every glass at SoDel Fest is 100 percent in a state of enjoyment, indulgence, and partaking of a southern coastal Delaware experience like no other.

IF YOU GO

What: Third annual SoDel Fest
When: Saturday, Oct. 7, noon-4 p.m.
Where: Independence Clubhouse, 23767 Samuel Adams Circle, Millsboro
Cost: Reserve tickets online at https://www.sodelfest.com/

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