South Beach Wine & Food Festival founder and director Lee Brian Schrager took a final walkthrough Friday of the Grand Tasting Village, the festival's signature event that organizers say they worked hard to tweak in the offseason. (Click here for a detailed map of the upgrades.)
He liked what he saw.
"Everything's more open. There's food as soon as you walk in. There are more places to hydrate, to sit and relax. I think people will notice the difference," said Schrager, a vice president at Southern Wine & Spirits, the festival's host sponsor.
The Grand Tasting tents, located on Miami Beach between 10th and 13th streets, opened Friday for a preview and will be running from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
On the end of his walkthrough, Schrager came across Devin Padgett, the festival's managing director, who seemed equally eager to let in the crowds.
"We realized it's not about adding bells and whistles and having lions jumping through flames," Padgett said. "We needed to find a way to make people comfortable and happy, and have them leaving with a sense that they want to come back."
BY EVAN S. BENN, ebenn@MiamiHerald.com