Stepanovich bids adieu to festival

Sharida Rejon, Features Editor

Bakersfield College hosted the annual Red and White Wine and Food Festival on April 11, making it the last festival for Mike Stepanovich, director of the Bakersfield College Foundation, who will be retiring this year.

Stepanovich, who created the event for Bakersfield College seven years ago, said that it is time for him to move on to the next chapter of his life, and he is staying optimistic about it.

“I feel excited about it,” he said. “I’ve loved my time here at Bakersfield College, but it’s time for a new chapter in my life and I’m looking forward to that. I’ve accomplished a lot here and I feel like the foundation is in really good hands and in good shape, so it’s time to move on to the next phase in my life.”

Stepanovich explained that although he is stepping down from his position in the foundation office, he plans on continuing to be involved with the school. “I’m looking forward to continuing teaching about wine here at Bakersfield College, and be involved here at BC,” he said. “It’s a great place to work, the people here are fantastic—I feel like I’m part of a family. So even though I’m retiring, I’m not going to be far away, I’m going to still be involved with this really terrific group of people.”

The annual wine tasting event was brought to BC by Stepanovich with the purpose of raising funds for scholarships. “This is one of my efforts to raise scholarships,” said Stepanovich. “When I got here, I was shocked to discover that there weren’t any culinary arts scholarships. Well, there are now!”

In addition to benefiting the BC culinary arts, the money raised during the event also helps support the BC jazz program and the Renegade Fund, which provides funds where needed on campus. During the event, the BC culinary arts department provided the food to accompany the wine, while the BC jazz combo provided entertainment.

Stepanovich, who is also an international wine judge, said that most of the people present at the festival are friends who he has met throughout his 25 years of being involved in the wine industry.

“They’re a great bunch of people who recognize that Bakersfield is a great market for them, so they come and support BC and a great cause,” he said. “They’re happy to come and help me raise scholarship money, and at the same time I’m happy to help them promote their wines in this market.”

One of the wine makers present at this year’s festival was BC alumnus Sean Goehring, who was representing Michael David Winery. “This is my first year here, so I’m hoping to help promote Michael David to southern California,” he said. “It’s nice to be here, it’s always good to be back home.”

Nicholas Flores, owner of Las Flores winery and friend of Stepanovich, said that although he is sad about Stepanovich’s retirement, he hopes the festival continues and plans on returning next year. “I’m kind of sad,” Flores said. “He does a great job here. I hope that whoever takes over will do an outstanding job like he does.”

Lisa Kent, executive secretary in the BC foundation office, said that as of now, there are plans to continue the festival and hopes that the wine makers will come back for the students and the community. “The festival brings the community on to campus, and when you do that, they get to see first-hand what the school is all about,” said Kent. “They get to mingle with some of the students, so there’s a higher possibility of them donating money for scholarships, programs and services.”

“The event has been very successful,” said Stepanovich. “Part of the effort is, you want to bring people to Bakersfield College. We want to show them what a terrific institution this is.

“It’s iconic in Bakersfield, and it’s iconic for a reason – for 100 years it has been here meeting the education needs for this community. That’s another thing – we don’t want to just raise scholarship money, we want to bring people here to see and remember how valuable Bakersfield College is to this community.”