By Bob Uphues
For Peter Boutsikakis, his involvement in the Riverside Public Library's first major fundraiser for a major renovation started in a familiar way – during a chance conversation in one of the aisles in Riverside Foods, which he co-owns.
Riverside Public Library board President Joan Wiaduck was doing a little shopping and struck up a chat with Boutsikakis, who has thrown his support toward other local fundraisers in the past, for the Frederick Law Olmsted Society and the Riverside Arts Center.
The result is Reading between the Wines, a wine-centric event that will serve as the library board's most ambitious fundraising effort to date and officially kick off a $1.3 million capital campaign to fund the renovation of the lower level.
Reading between the Wines will take place on Saturday, Feb. 3 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the library, 1 Burling Road.
Tickets for the event, which is limited to those 21 and older, are $30 each. The library can accommodate about 350 participants, said Library Director Janice Foley, and as of Jan. 29, about 180 tickets had been sold.
The fundraising goal for the event is $10,000.
"That'd be the most we've ever raised," Foley said. "We're cautiously optimistic that it'll build steam as people realize we're trying to improve things for youth in the community."
The lower level of the Riverside Public Library house materials and programs for children and teens, in addition to the main public meeting room and a genealogical research area.
There's no set schedule for the improvements, and library officials have said they expect it will take several years to realize the plan. It's the first large-scale improvement project the library has looked to undertake since the mid-1980s, when a major addition was constructed.
"This is the kickoff," Foley said. "We're saying we're actually looking for ways to fund this project."
To pave the way for the upcoming changes to the lower level, library officials have recently completed a number of projects on the main level, including consolidating the collection of adult materials, installing new book cases and creating more convenient access to the elevator.
The format of Reading between the Wines will be similar to the Olmsted Society's recent HopStop craft beer festivals. Each participant will get a commemorative wine glass, which can be used to get a tasting pour of any wine being offered during the event.
Boutsikakis has called on the expertise of four distributors, who have chosen wines that that may not be so familiar, but which "tend to over-deliver for the price," he said.
The event will showcase more than 30 wines among five classifications (a few more reds than whites, Boutsikakis said) – France, Portugal, Italy/Greece, organic and sparkling. All of the wines have been donated, so all of the proceeds from the event will go to the library.
Tables will be located on both levels, with sparkling and organic wines on the lower level, where the coat check will also be located.
"We really want people to see what needs to be done down there," said Foley.
In addition, if you like the wine you're tasting, there will be the ability to buy it – from single bottles to cases – by filling out a form at the event. The wine can be picked up at a later date at Riverside Foods, and 10 percent of those sales will go toward the library's capital campaign.
Foley said there will also be a silent auction, including items such as a weekend stay at a cabin, Cubs-Sox tickets for a game in September, restaurant gift certificates, books, wine and art, including an original piece by North Riverside sculptor Jim Eichorst.
Music will be provided by R-Rendition with Beverly Gibson Aieta.
Tickets can be purchased at the library or online by visiting www.riversidelibrary.org and clicking the Reading between the Wines link on the home page.