On any other day of the year, the Lawrence Public Library is a place for patrons of all ages from infancy and up to gather amongst its thousands of volumes, sift through the well-read pages and enjoy the quiet atmosphere. But on Oct. 13 at 7 p.m., as it has been for the four years previous, the boisterous party inside the normally serene walls was adult-exclusive. That evening, the library hosted its fifth annual October Fest Beer and Wine Tasting.
The annual event is sponsored by the Friends of the Lawrence Library and is partnered with Ray's Package Store. Food was donated from a variety of local eateries including Donelan's, Bailey's Bar and Grill and several others. The art gallery was transformed into a cafe setting for those desiring a more leisurely evening.
As piano music played by Liz Cataldo drifted over the din of conversation, nearly 200 guests meandered through the library's first floor, sampling wine and beer from 10 different stations and dining on finger foods.
"It's overwhelmingly festive and popular," said Library Director Debra Spratt. "It's a way for the Friends to raise money, but it's also really become a huge social event in town where neighbors meet neighbors. It brings in many people."
In the past, the event always sold 200 tickets; this year, the Friends of the Library hoped to downgrade to a more manageable size of 175. But by the night of the event, tickets were in such high demand that the Friends printed and sold an additional nine tickets.
"It's one of our better fundraisers," said Lisa Marr, member of Friends of the Library and one of the event's organizers. "Everybody when they're leaving that night tend to come to us say they wish we did this more than once a year."
For the price of a ticket at $20, each guest was provided was a complimentary wine glass featuring an etching by local artist Nina Casey. Each year, Casey provides a drawing of a different historical Pepperell building; this year, the drawing was of the railroad station.
"It's a collector's item," said Spratt.
The original artwork was raffled off at the end of the evening. But regardless of who walked away with the prize, the guests were thrilled to be a part of the seasonal event. Everyone in attendance had a different reason for coming out, from supporting the library to being able to sample the local flavors to merely escaping the house for an adult night out.
"I want to help support the fundraiser and it's a great thing to get the community together," said Selectman Stephen Themelis.
"And it's a nice way to taste the wines that you see in the store," said his wife Joyce.
Christy Anselmi, who recently moved to Pepperell with her family, said that she was hoping to use the opportunity to socialize with her new neighbors.
"It's just a great way to mingle and be a part of the community," she said.
Some guests crossed state lines to attend the evening, like Ron and Judy Ilomaki, who came down from New Hampshire after hearing about the event from Spratt. Other more local guests, like Beth and Joe Helfter, were able to walk from their house.
Of their reasons for coming, Beth said, "We have three young children."
Ray's Package Store has been partnering with the library for the event since its inception five years ago. The owner of Ray's recently passed away, but her family, including sister Liryc Donald, continued with the tradition in her honor.
"The business is family owned. It's always been family owned. We were born and raised here, everybody knows us. It's just a nice thing to do," said Donald. "It's become kind of a family tradition."