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  • Cider Swig returns for its fourth year. By Patty

A Chance to Make a Difference

A Chance to Make a Difference

When you combine a great event with an opportunity to benefit your community, you cannot go wrong. That is exactly what the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation is doing with its Fourth Annual Cider Swig: The Great Peninsula Cider Festival.

Taking place on Saturday, September 30, at Sehmel Homestead Park, there will be nearly three-dozen regional cidermakers, a majority from the Northwest, on hand to share nearly 100 hard cider varieties. But this event is not just for adults; there will be apple-themed games and kids’ activities in the Apple Carnivale Zone along with food and live music. And to kick off the festivities, there will be a Gourmet Cider Makers Dinner on the evening of September 29.

While all this is reason enough to attend the event, this is also a great opportunity to benefit local environmental education and restoration products. Over the course of the last few years, the Cider Swig has donated more than $20,000 to support environmental education in parks, natural areas and trails around the Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula communities. Each year, the largest donation has been made to the Lu Winsor Environmental Grant Program, which is administered by the Key Peninsula-Gig Harbor-Islands (KGI) Watershed Council.

For over a decade, the Lu Winsor program has made an impact on our local students by helping them experience science workshops in the classroom, participate in restoration projects and attend local environmental education camps.

Since the Lu Winsor program began, both Peninsula Light Company and Pierce County Shellfish Partners have each contributed $5,000 to the grant on an annual basis. When Cider Swig first began in 2014, there were 12 cidermakers, and the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation contributed $2,500 to the grant program and also donated grants to PenMet Parks and Curious by Nature School. With the growing popularity of the Cider Swig the following year, the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation was able to increase its donation to $5,000. Last year, the foundation awarded the Lu Winsor program with $7,500; a contribution that was met with an additional match of $2,500 from Pierce County, making the total amount of the award $20,000.

Dr. Julie Gustanski is the chair of the Cider Swig and hopes to continue to increase the contribution year after year. “We feel strongly that Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula residents value these programs for our children and will spend a fun-filled day enjoying craft ciders and helping us meet our goal of a $10,000 donation to the Lu Winsor Environmental Grant Program in 2017,” said Gustanski, who first came up with the idea of the Cider Swig in late 2012 when she was flying back from the East Coast and happened to read an inflight magazine article on the renaissance of cider in the United States.

“The Foundation’s Parks & Environment CAB [Core Area Board], of which I am a member, was trying to come up with something new and different that could help to raise critical funds to support a variety of parks and environment-oriented initiatives across our greater Gig Harbor and Key peninsula community,” said Gustanski. “The Parks & Environment CAB met within days of my return from this trip, so while the idea was fresh in my mind, I proposed the concept. And the rest is history.”

So just exactly where does the money go? According to the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation, proceeds from the 2016 Cider Swig focused on environmental education programs and supported the following projects:

  • Students from Vaughn Elementary were sent to YMCA Camp Seymour for three days of intensive environmental education courses

  • Production and installation of two interpretive educational signs by the Key Pen Parks at the new Gateway Park

  • Students from the Peninsula School District were brought to the annual Tacoma-Pierce County Children’s Water Festival hosted by Pierce Conservation District

  • Guided educational tours and beach etiquette lessons for the public on our local state park beaches with Harbor WildWatch

  • Renovation of the rain garden surrounding the Volunteer Vern Pavilion at Sehmel Homestead Park by Greater Gig Harbor Foundation EnviroCorps

According to Gustanski, they are thrilled to be able to do what they can, but the need is still so great. The grant requests were close to $30,000 in 2016, and they expect it to reach at least that amount this year.

In addition to Cider Swig, the community foundation works to meet the diverse needs of the greater Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula communities. The Foundation holds a handful of events each year, which help to provide financial support for a variety of things in our community.

“Since its founding in 2006, the nonprofit organization has invested more than $4.9 million in grants, scholarships, land, equipment and volunteer labor into our community to address some of the community’s most pressing needs,” said Gustanski.

By purchasing a ticket to the Fourth Annual Cider Swig, you can help support more Lu Winsor projects. Advanced purchase tickets are only $27, or you can purchase tickets at the gate for $35. Each ticket includes five drink tokens and a festival glass, and extra tokens will also be available for purchase at the event.

Admission is free to all festival areas except the Cider Garden sponsored by Uptown Gig Harbor and the cider sales tent, where entrants must be 21 to enter (ID required). Advance ticket purchase for the Cider Garden is highly recommended, as the event has sold out every year. So don’t delay, get your swig on and get your tickets today!

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