ArtsQuest celebrates its 25th year this weekend with continued growth, expansion and a world of wine

As the arts festival changes locales to a larger venue at WaterColor, this year's evolution includes a new alliance with one of the resort's businessmen.

With Friday night's opening of ArtsQuest, the cultural event introduces the first WineQuest.

Chan Cox, who owns Wine World at WaterColor, was approached by ArtsQuest promoters about supplying wine for the upcoming ArtsQuest event. However, Cox tends to think big, and introduced the concept of having a WineQuest to go along with the annual art event. 

Cox established the Sandestin Wine Festival 27 years ago, and introduced the inaugural South Walton Beaches Wine Festival last month at Grand Boulevard, which reportedly saw phenomenal returns for a first-time event.  

Cox's concept for WineQuest is that everyone who purchases a ticket gets a passport that enables them to visit the wines and cheeses of five different countries as they shop for art at ArtsQuest.

"As you navigate around ArtsQuest you get your passport stamped," explained Cox. "The first stop is Italy where you can enjoy sampling a fine dry Italian Prosecco wine paired with a cheese by our cheese experts. The next stop is France where you can enjoy a crisp dry Rose and cheese from the French Alps. Then proceed to Chile, Spain, and lastly South Africa. It will be a lot of fun."

CAA Executive Director Jennifer Steele said, "WineQuest is a natural fit with our move to WaterColor. I am happy to have an association with a merchant who has a business here. Chan has a history of working with non-profits and having WineQuest as a part of ArtsQuest will enhance the event over all.

This is ArtsQuest's first year to be held at WaterColor. The event began as a little art show at Grayton Beach, then moved to Eden State Gardens, then to Baytowne, then Seaside, and now WaterColor.

"It keeps getting bigger," said Steele. "It was too large for Seaside and their traffic situation. A decision had to be made of whether to keep it there and keep it smaller or move it and allow for growth. It deserved to grow."

This year, there are 130 juried artists featured and another 50 local ones represented.

After opening on May 10, ArtsQuest continues Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. WineQuest is open from noon to 6 p.m.

ArtsQuest is open Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and WineQuest from noon to 4 p.m.

Entry to ArtsQuest is by a suggested $5 donation that benefits the CAA.

A passport to WineQuest is $25.

"Creating WineQuest is a win/win for both of us as proceeds go to CAA," said Cox.