PHOTO GALLERY: Nearly 4,000 attend Festival of the Grape

Annual event in Oliver a huge success as friends of the grape and many others converge on city park.

Lynda McGaire of Langley spent the day looking through rose-coloured wine glasses.

Lynda McGaire of Langley spent the day looking through rose-coloured wine glasses.

Eat, drink and be merry.

That’s exactly what most of the record-setting 4,000-plus people who crowded the grounds of the Oliver Recreation Centre did during the sunny Sunday afternoon at the annual Festival of the Grape.

“2014 is our breakout year,” said CEO Bonnie Dancey, of the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce, which organize the festival held on Oct. 5. “People are very impressed with what we have to offer above and beyond the great wine-tasting opportunities from our fabulous Okanagan wineries.”

Along with soaking up the rays and savouring the goodness of the nearly 50 participating vintners, there were the delectable delights of 15 food venders, 60 trade venders plying their wares and the first-class entertainment by internationally renowned Vancouver recording artists, The Paperboys. And there was more.

The international grape-stomping competition was once again a crowd pleaser with the Osoyoos Walnut Beach Nut Crushers weighing in at 17.2 kilograms of grape juice to take top honours. The Uncorked Cellar Dwellers of Okanagan Falls and Surrey’s Fermented Friends tied for second with 13.6 kg pounds while The Heat of Trail and Sticky Feet, of Calgary, Alta., each stomped 11.3 kg pounds of juice to share third place.

Competitors this year came from as far away as the southern United States in an attempt to lay claim to the title of top juicers.

New this year, and especially popular was the wine and food pairing tent where people had the opportunity to try the best wines with a chef-prepared food offering which had many patrons coming back for more.

As well, this year the Chateau de Kids area was expanded and included everything from a clown table to petting zoo and pony rides.

Penticton’s Terry McWhirter was there with his six and seven year old children and had nothing but good words to say about the festival.

“It’s fantastic and it’s especially great when you have young kids, everybody can have fun,” he said.  When you’ve been here a few years like us, it’s the only way is if it is a family-friendly. The kids have a blast, they look forward to it more than mom and dad. They’ve literally been talking about it for week.”

For youth under 19, entry to the festival is free. Sandi Hill of Surrey decided a weekend in the Okanagan and entering a team in the grape stomping competition (Fermented Friends) would be the best way to celebrate her friend Laura Tappert’s 50th anniversary.

And she was right.

“This has been fantastic, a lot of fun, a lot of wine and something I will never forget,” said the birthday girl as she headed in the direction of her on-stage grape barrel.