Exhibitour wine, art event to return to downtown Wausau in October

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By:  Laura Schulte, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Get your traveling wine glasses ready, because Exhibitour is returning to downtown Wausau this fall. 

Exhibitour, which hasn't happened in downtown Wausau since 2012, is an event that opens up local downtown businesses as art galleries and allows participants to roam between them while enjoying wine on the walk. The event will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 5.

The event was originally put on hold in early 2013 because the event was in violation of several state statutes regarding alcohol and sales during events. But in 2016, those rules were changed, making it legal for stores to serve wine during a "wine walk" event during a set number of hours. The legislation made it possible to issue up to 20 wine-only licenses to participating stores, making it legal for them to serve wine. Legislation also changed to allow stores to sell items while the wine walk is ongoing. 

Exhibitour was started in 2005 by Tom Neal. Neal and his wife, Jane Neal, had recently moved to Wausau from Fort Worth, Texas, where they had lived in an arts district and enjoyed frequent art outings that often included browsing different galleries with glasses of wine. So he reached out to Wausau Events and the Wausau River District and brought the idea to life. Each year that Exhibitour was held, it drew thousands of participants, according to Neal. 

There will be changes to the reboot of the event this October, though the premise will stay the same. Attendees will have to pay for a wristband to be able to participate, though there isn't a set price yet, said Blake Opal-Wahoske, the interim executive director of the Wausau River District. And there may be a cap to how many attendees can participate, but organizers aren't sure about that factor yet. 

Other than that, participants will be able to see art mostly from local artists, placed in shops throughout the downtown, which will also offer wine and snacks. Neal said the event will help get new customers into downtown stores to enjoy not only wine and art, but the goods and services the shops offer. 

"It's a good way to start building your customer base," he said. "It's about networking and getting people into stores that have never been in before." 

Opal-Wahoske said that Exhibitour is an event that people have requested make a comeback in downtown, and he's happy that the River District can be a part of it. 

"There's always been interest," he said. "There's always been a need an a want to bring this back." 

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