WESTFIELD – Vineyard and winery owners and many others associated with the grape industry were on hand Friday for the grand opening of Chautauqua County’s newest tourist attraction, the Grape Discovery Center in Westfield.
The ribbon on the Star Family Exhibit Room was cut by Stanley Star, whose family founded the Cliffstar Corp. in Dunkirk and Fredonia and produced Concord grape juice for many years.
Helen Baran and her daughter, Julie Travis of Westfield, were on hand to cut the ribbon on the new patio and tasting area in memory of Steve Baran. The Baran family has been instrumental in promoting the Grape Heritage Group for many years.
State Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, said she remembers that Mrs. Baran invited her to lunch at her home many years ago to encourage support for the center. She said she believes it is important to recognize the agricultural endeavors of the area.
“The impact reaches beyond agriculture to economic development and tourism,” she said.
Young promoted the project several years ago and was able to secure $1.3 million in state funds to help acquire the building and start the extensive remodeling to turn it into an interactive museum and tourist attraction. The Star family donated $100,000 specifically for displays and exhibits, and the Baran family donated $50,000, according to Mackenzie Cady, manager of the center.
Cady said people who donated more than $1,000 were invited to the private luncheon prior to the grand opening event.
Several speakers recognized the efforts of Andy Dufresne, former director of Cornell Cooperative Extension and one of the charter members of the Grape Heritage Association.
The center is modeled after the Cranberry Discovery Center in Wisconsin, which draws more than 10,000 visitors annually.
Dufresne said he believes the new center has many positive attributes, including its location on Route 20. It is surrounded by vineyards and is near many other winery and grape production operations.
Dufresne said he can envision tourists spending a few days in the area enjoying all the different locations related to the industry.
Tour groups are encouraged to make arrangements for a narrated tour through the center. The interactive areas include displays about the soil, climate and unique geology of the region along Lake Erie where grapes have been a primary agricultural product for more than 150 years.
A variety of grape and grape-themed products are available at the center’s gift shop. There are unique food products, including grape seed oil and vinegars.
There also is a wine tasting area where several local wines are featured. The center also has some local cheese and snack items for visitors to enjoy while tasting wines either outside on the patio or in the tasting room. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.