Is your palate ready for the Water Tasting?
Entries continue to pour in from around the world for the award-winning 23rd annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting on Saturday, February 23, at Berkeley Springs Best Western Conference Center.
Among the more than 100 entries are former gold medal winners from Los Angeles and Desert Hot Springs, as well as a long list of Ohio water systems hoping to duplicate their state's success in past years.
International waters include entries from Bosnia, Japan, Canada and South Korea, as well as first-ever entries from Chile, Georgia and Thailand.
The Southwest Water Authority of North Dakota is entered in the municipal division this year.
“They were excited to be the first North Dakota water ever to enter,” said Jeanne Mozier, an event founder. “I’m excited because it puts us one state closer to 50 states. It’s like collecting the state quarters.”
Only four states have never had entries -- Nevada, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and South Dakota.
"Over the life of the water tasting, we've had entrants from 45 countries representing every continent but Africa," said Jill Klein Rone, producer of the event. "This year we have public water systems from both Thailand and South Korea."
The Berkeley Springs International is the largest and longest running water tasting competition in the world.
“We consider it the Academy Awards of Water,” said Klein Rone. “Instead of gold statuettes, we present fused-glass slump bowls created by Amingo Glass of Hedgesville.”
Tasting of municipal waters, followed by purified drinking water, begins at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. Bottled waters, both still and sparkling, will be tasted at 6:30 p.m.
Winners in all categories will be announced at a public reception at 8 p.m. Judges are trained to rate the waters on attributes of taste, smell and clarity by watermaster and water expert Arthur von Wiesenberger,
"The impact of winning this event is extraordinary for a bottler," Mozier said.
For instance, after winning the 2008 gold medal for best tasting bottled non-carbonated water, Martinsburg’s Tumai water company saw sales grow overnight.
Berkeley Springs water is in abundance. “With all the different companies bottling water from the springs, Berkeley Springs is entered multiple times, and that doesn’t include the Town of Bath in the municipals,” Mozier said.
A panel of media judges determine the winners, but there is a role for the public. All day Saturday, they taste water along with the judges and the public votes for the People's Choice award for best packaging.
"How the product looks has become ever more important as the bottled water industry continues to grow," Mozier said. "There are now more than 600 brands of bottled water."
Admitting that the event is a little tame, Mozier said: "The real excitement for the audience comes at the conclusion. Once the awards are presented, we stage the now world-famous 'water rush' where folks scramble to take home some of the hundreds of bottles of water that have been used for display. It takes about nine hours to set up the display and less than 10 minutes for it all to disappear."
Judges for the 2013 Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting include freelance journalists and representatives from a variety of media outlets including NBC-TV and Virginia Public Radio.
The event also includes a public seminar on Friday, February 22, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The 2013 seminar, "Water: Beneath the Surface and Around the Globe" will feature international economic development expert Henry Hidell III, who will receive this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and Dr. Kathy Gruver, host of the TV show "The Alternative Medicine Cabinet,” based on her book of the same name.
Sustainability and issues facing the bottled water industry will also be discussed.
The water tasting weekend begins on Thursday, February 21, with preliminary tastings at the Best Western Conference Center that are free and open to the public.
The event is produced by Travel Berkeley Springs, with funding support from the West Virginia Legislature. For event tickets or more information, call 800-447-8797 or check the Travel Berkeley Springs website.