Mohegan Sun Casino has a few additions and one celebrity change for this year’s Sun Wine & Food Fest coming Friday-Sunday, Jan. 24-26: There’s a new Cigar and Wine Pairing at the renovated Clay Pipe Cigar Bar at 10 p.m. Friday ($50), a Celebrity Chef After party Saturday at novelle (no cover) and two Sunday brunches instead of one, which is where the celeb swap comes in. Hip-hop guy Rev Run is out and Brandi Cyrus (Miley’s sister) is in as deejay for the Champagne Brunch at “ultra lounge” novelle.
The weekend of eight events again promises mid-winter fun and flavor for about 15,000 visitors over three days, spread out across the Uncas Ballroom and the spacious Earth Expo & Convention Center as the event retains the features and scope that make it a yearly success.
Jessica Sylvia Platts, director of special events at Mohegan Sun, provided the visitor number and said the weekend resonates beyond the regular casino guests.
“It really allows us to expand the demographic of the people coming to Mohegan Sun,” she said, referring to tech-aided marketing to certain demo groups as well as folks who attend every year. “I think... we’ve continued to develop events that happen over the three days and we add events that we feel we may be lacking in a demographic.”
The cigar event, matching a full pour of wine from 19 Crimes with a specific cigar, may extend a cigar-lover’s stay for the whole weekend, Platts said. The added events were made possible by the opening of the Earth Hotel in 2016, adding 400 rooms to the resort’s 1,200 hotel rooms.
At $95 a head, Saturday’s Grand Tasting draws the bulk of vino sippers sampling tasty wines and (for-purchase) prepared food items, along with chef demos on stage by the likes of Todd English (12:15 p.m.) and Aaron Sanchez (at 4). But the Grand Tasting Preview on Friday night is an especially good deal ($45), also featuring cooking demos.
“The year we changed it (to) Sun Wine & Food Fest we wanted to explain to our consumers that it’s not just the Grand Tasting,” Platts said. “We really wanted to encompass that whole weekend because with have programming all three days. And making that change two years ago definitely brought us to a different subset of people — the foodie people.”
There’s a separate Bourbon Tasting event from 6-9 p.m. Friday with food bites by Bear’s BBQ ($90), there’s the high-end wine event Vintage Cru from 4-6 p.m. Saturday ($140) and the Celebrity Chef Dine-Around at 8 p.m. Saturday with 20 top chefs serving food paired with wine ($190).
The other brunch Sunday will be a Celebrity Brunch Battle where four chefs will duel for best brunch dish in a 30-minute span, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. in Uncas Ballroom ($90).
The weekend involves work by around 300 employees of the casino as well as liquor reps who come in to serve their product and talk wine.
Officials here know that Wine & Food Fest is a marquee example of Connecticut casinos doing big entertainment events amid an increasingly crowded landscape of Eastern gaming venues.
“It’s a competitive market and I think that if we make a good first impression and we provide great content and great events, they’ll continue to come back here,” said Platts, who with a three-person team also produces Sun Whiskey Union coming in April and Hot Summer Fun events.