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Walla Walla Valley Holiday Barrel Weekend | December 1-3, 2023

Toast a Reimagined Holiday Barrel Weekend

By Vicki Hillhouse

What do you get when a homespun holiday kickoff in a picturesque town pairs with a celebration of world-class wine and food? A packed weekend with something for everyone.

Two longstanding Walla Walla traditions combine Dec. 1-3 for a reimagined Holiday Barrel Weekend. Wend your way through new vintages and savor a slew of family-friendly activities anchored in a dazzling downtown Walla Walla.

The weekend’s events, including Saturday night’s community tree lighting and more than 100-entry strong holiday parade, are centered amid tasting rooms, restaurants, and downtown’s 48 retail shops.

New this year is an inaugural Holiday Fair & Market at The Motor Co. with live music, photos with Santa, an assortment of vendors selling holiday wares, and seasonal mulled wine and cider, and hot cocoa. That joins the existing Persistent Local Market across the street at the Showroom on Colville, where local vendors specialize in food and artisan goods.

Walla Walla Valley Wine and the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation have united for the weekend’s itinerary under the name Team Walla Walla.

The unified approach brings new elements and sequencing so maximize the schedule and offer more for visitors and locals alike, says Kathryn Witherington, Downtown Walla Walla Foundation executive director.

“We amplify the whole thing by linking it together,” she says. “The goal over time is to grow it in interesting and cool ways.”

“The key: It’s a weekend not to be missed,” adds Walla Walla Valley Wine Executive Director Liz Knapke. “Whether you’re a local or visiting, we have a robust schedule of events of all ages.”

For wine lovers, the weekend launches Friday night with Walla Walla Valley Wine’s Barrel Full of Money auction and wine reception. The event is the culmination of a more than monthlong fundraiser for the nonprofit Blue Mountain Action Council and its mission to end hunger in Walla Walla, Columbia and Garfield counties. Since 2011, the Barrel Full of Money campaign has raised more than $500,000.

Wineries throughout the weekend will each observe their own celebration of the season with tastings and merriment. 

Team Walla Walla will pay homage to the wine industry by repurposing wine barrels into holiday barrel trees throughout the downtown corridor. This year’s displays are dubbed as an “appetizer” for years to come as the group plans to scale up to one large tree, eight levels high, Knapke says. Nelson Construction is assisting with the barrels, donated by Bergevin Lane Vineyards, Grosgrain Vineyards, itä wines, L’Ecole No. 41 and Va Piano Vineyards.

For this year, Walla Walla’s traditional tree will be at the Walawàla Plaza while Heritage Square Park is under construction. The Main Street park will ultimately become the center of holiday activity, Witherington says.

In the meantime, here’s what to expect for this year’s schedule:

Friday, Dec. 1:

Saturday, Dec. 2:

  • Persistent Local Market, an indoor market of local food, produce and artisan vendors, 70 N. Colville St., 9 a.m.-1 p.m. 
  • Holiday Fair & Market, an inaugural indoor event with holiday vendors, live music, Santa and more, The Motor Co., noon-4 p.m.
  • Tree-lighting ceremony, Walawàla Plaza, First Avenue and Main Street, 5 p.m.
  • Holiday Parade of Lights, which draws 6,000 spectators and more than 100 participants illuminating the streets of downtown Walla Walla, 6 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 3:

Additional community events:

  • Junior Club Holiday Home Tour, a self-guided tour through Walla Walla’s festive homes, check-in is 10:30 a.m. at the Walla Walla Country Club, 1390 Country Club Road. Tickets are available here.
  • Everdream (previously known as Affiniti) returns to Gesa Power House Theatre to perform “A Celtic Christmas” at 3 p.m. (and again Dec. 4 at 7 p.m.). Tickets are available at phtww.org.
  • Feast of Carols community concert at Cordiner Hall, details TBD.