A growing local fundraiser has become a fine time for one area resident to toast a nonprofit agency helping the disabled.

Ellen Olmstead, known for rounding up friends to attend the annual D-Vine Wine and Beer Fest, figures she will bring along at least 10 friends Saturday when the ninth tasting event unfolds at The Commons. She joined about 900 other pals of Developmental Services Inc., a record crowd, at the gathering last year that raised a best-ever $22,000.

“I’m hoping that means the knowledge and the awareness of the cause is bringing more people out for support,” said Olmstead, a Seymour resident who worked for DSI years ago. “For me, part of the fun is mixing and mingling with everyone there.”

Olmstead emphasized that most of those joining her and her 91-year-old mom at their table are hardly substantial imbibers. They are drawn to a chance to socialize, snack, enjoy a drink or two, and simultaneously help DSI.

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“And we really just enjoy the atmosphere,” Olmstead said. Almost every year, it has had a little something different. The (craft) beer was one example of a nice update. Those are the things that keeps us coming back.”

Plus, this year, several area distilleries give the fundraiser an even broader appeal, according to organizers. In recent years, planners have dropped live music to make room for more people.

“It definitely has grown, and the crowd has been a nice problem to have,” said Tom Harpring, DSI’s communications officer who noted that people even travel from surrounding states. “We have saved space with no longer having a dance floor. We discovered that the live music was nice, but not that much of a big draw.

“People told us that they came mostly for the tasting and the conversation with others.”

The event began at Factory 12 Event Loft with an exclusive focus on wineries, then moved to the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds before needing the larger space at The Commons. Organizers originally selected a late-winter date because of a seeming shortage of indoor events then.

“I don’t think any of us imagined it would be this wildly successful,” Harpring said.

Other elements linked to past fests include a silent auction, also discontinued to make more room for attendees. Besides the drinks, the event still includes catered light menu items such as sandwiches.

“It definitely has become a social meeting kind of thing,” Harpring said. “A lot of the people who attend are not actually big drinkers.”

Sonita Ball of Brown County has attended with husband Patrick Ball for at least four years, and considers the event “as a very enjoyable afternoon with friends.”

“And it’s a great way to support all the good things that DSI provides for people in our community,” Sonita Ball added.

Drinking to the cause

What: Ninth Annual D-Vine Wine and Beer Fest to benefit Developmental Services Inc., which provides a range of services to disabled children and adults throughout south-central Indiana.

When: 1 to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Where: The Commons, 300 Washington St. in Columbus.

Tickets: $20 in advance at dsiservices.org. $25 at the door.

Information: 812-376-9404 or dsiservices.org.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.