One of South Florida's largest and longest-running food festivals will return to Fort Lauderdale this month.
On Friday, April 21, the Las Olas Wine and Food Festival (LOWFF) will once again transform the city's Las Olas Boulevard into a four-block-long walkable feast for all the senses. The event offers attendees unlimited food, wine, beer, and spirit tastings, as well as live music, entertainment, and interactive experiences.
In celebration of its 27th anniversary, attendees can once again roam the event's outdoor "tasting pavilion" down Las Olas Boulevard as they sip and sample their way through 40 of South Florida's best restaurants and 150 domestic and international wineries, spirits brands, and breweries.
As in years past, the festival will feature participating restaurants from across South Florida, from Las Olas favorites like Big City Tavern, American Social, YOLO, Louie Bossie, Timpano, and Casa Sensei to Miami-based restaurants 2 Korean Girls, Coyo Taco, and Bodega Taqueria, as well as Broward County hot spots Cuba Libre, Burlock Coast, Oceanic, and Lona Cocina Tequileria.
According to Pam Zirkle, vice president of real estate for the Las Olas Company, a longstanding event sponsor, preparations for the festival begin months in advance. As early as September, a 15- to 20-person planning committee begins securing participants, entertainment, and volunteers, designing the festival layout, and preparing the Las Olas business community for the evening street closure.
This year, events include a VIP rooftop party that will take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at 788 E. Las Olas Blvd., allowing ticket holders access to the festival 30 minutes early. VIP and general admission guests will be given the traditional LOWFF branded glassware and a "wine glass yoke" lanyard that enables festivalgoers to drink hands-free.
Most importantly, LOWFF — alongside numerous event sponsors, including Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits — promotes advocacy of the American Lung Association South Florida, the longtime beneficiary of the event. The nationwide nonprofit is among the country's leading organizations dedicated to preventing lung disease through education, advocacy, and research.
Locally, the American Lung Association promotes plans and policies to keep our air clean and free of pollutants. Since its inception in 2000, the American Lung Association's "State of the Air" report compiles quality-assured data from the EPA to create an unbiased grading system to educate the public about the air they breathe.
According to the 2022 report, more than 40 percent of Americans — more than 135 million people — live in places with failing grades for unhealthy levels of particle pollution or ozone. See how Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties were graded at lung.org.
For Zirkle, LOWFF is more than just a foodie-focused festival. It's also a fun way to advocate for the American Lung Association in South Florida, whose mission is close to her heart. In 1996, Zirkle's stepfather was diagnosed with aggressive lung cancer. The experience was traumatic, she tells New Times, and her family was hit hard by his sudden death.
"It affected my family greatly, and since then, advocating to help those in a similar position is something that has been very important to me. For me to be able to give back and continue to support this festival is the least I can do," says Zirkle. "The proceeds from this event allow the South Florida Lung Association to do so many things, including fund the community-based support programs for those living with the disease and their family members."
The Las Olas Wine and Food Festival will take place on Friday, April 21, from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale and can be purchased online. General admission tickets are $150 per person. Guests looking for early entry at 7 p.m. can purchase a VIP ticket for an extra $50 per person, which also gives access to the event's VIP kick-off party. (The VIP add-on can only be purchased with a general admission ticket purchase.)
Las Olas Wine & Food Festival. 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, April 21, at E. Las Olas Blvd. between SE Sixth and 11th Avenues, Fort Lauderdale; lasolaswff.com. Tickets cost $150.