The Roberson Museum and Science Center’s first and second floors were transformed into a smorgasbord Thursday night during the institution’s 23rd-annual Wine and Food Fest.

Sponsored by M&T Bank, the event featured over 50 vendors comprising some of the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes’ best restaurants, wineries, breweries and distilleries. Revenue from ticket sales — $35 for food only, $50 for members, $60 for non-members and $80 for VIP — went toward the museum, and the night is one of its main fundraising events every year.

Local businesses table for free and sponsors help subsidize other costs, including a live band. Over 500 tickets were sold, representing the Roberson Museum’s largest turnout since COVID-19, according to Emily Kuebler, the museum’s marketing and events coordinator. She described logistical challenges with the event’s planning.

“Where it gets difficult is weighing the ratio of food to beverage and locking in the layout so no room has too much of either,” Kuebler wrote in an email. “This year, we have extremely delicate exhibitions in two of our galleries we typically use, so layout was even more of a puzzle.”

One of the many businesses featured was Flaming Bag Catering, started by Amy Wieber Ph.D. ’00, who offered a cream of asparagus soup and pea pesto pasta.

“I love coming to this event, because it’s a great fundraiser for the museum, and we get to meet a lot of new and interesting people, including [Binghamton University] grads,” Weiber said.

In addition to the abundant tables of food and drink, patrons silently bid on donated prize baskets and entered raffles in the gift shop. Winners received bottles of wine, gift certificates to local restaurants and performances, and clothing, among other prizes.

All attendees were given a branded wine glass or beer mug upon entry.

Dan Polhamus ‘00, the owner and operator of Iron Agave, was serving pork carnitas street tacos at one of the event’s busiest tables. He described how he found his business partner at BU and the importance of local events like Wine and Food Fest.

“As [BU] graduates and Binghamton natives, it’s really a dream come true to have a Downtown presence,” Polhamus said. “We’ve always been rooted in the community. We’ve always believed in doing events like this that are fundraisers, both for charities that affect people who have health conditions and even celebrating charities like this that raise money for the arts in the area.”

The Roberson Museum’s storied history extends back to the mid-1900s, when Alonzo Roberson ordered the creation of an educational center at his mansion upon his and his wife’s death. Opening in 1954 as the Roberson Mansion, the museum underwent a major renovation and now hosts the region’s only digital planetarium.

Lynnette Lenzner, a wine steward at Lakewood Vineyards, located on the west side of Seneca Lake, said tabling in Binghamton exposed a broader audience to the vibrant wine culture in the Finger Lakes region.

“This is always a fabulous event,” Lennar said. “We love coming here every year. We’ve done it for a number of years now, and it’s always a really fun event. The people are super fun and nice, and they’re really open to learning about our wines and finding out about Lakewood Vineyards.”

Drawing on the past, Kuebler emphasized community — a clear value given the lack of major chains, as Wine and Food Fest gave a platform to locally-owned businesses.

“The Robersons were very into their community when they were alive,” Kuebler said. “That’s what we really try to bring into this day and age. Roberson’s been here since the early 1900s. It hopefully will be here for many more years, and we’re right in Binghamton, so it’s a perfect gathering place for everybody.”