South Okanagan ready to celebrate the grape

Oliver's Festival of the Grape is a family-friendly event that is expected to draw nearly 4,000 people on Oct. 5.

Judy Blackwell does the stomping as her Grape Expectations teammate Brenda Kilasa collects the bounty in a plastic jug during the first round of the grape stomp during the annual Oliver Festival of the Grape last year.

Judy Blackwell does the stomping as her Grape Expectations teammate Brenda Kilasa collects the bounty in a plastic jug during the first round of the grape stomp during the annual Oliver Festival of the Grape last year.

One of the only family-orientated fall wine festivals hopes crowds are working up an appetite for Oct. 5.

The Oliver Festival of the Grape, which launched in 1997, is adding a new dimension to the event with wine and food pairings in the tents.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for a lot of wineries that also offer food on their premise to bring that atmosphere to Festival of the Grape,” said Luke Whittall, chair of FOG wine committee. “We are trying to offer a similar experience that a person would get at a winery and it is exciting to be able to do that.”

Whittall said Hester Creek, Terrafina and Plantinum Bench are participating this year. Festival-goers will be able to hand over a grape ticket to get their wine sampling, move to the next table nearby and hand over another ticket to get a food pairing from the winery’s restaurant.

“The Okanagan is really growing in terms of food. Five years ago there was one winery with a restaurant in the South Okanagan and now there is all kinds restaurants and winery combinations.”

Besides food served under the tent, there will also be 15 food trucks  on the grounds to provide event goers with a wide selection ranging from Thai to tacos and ice cream to doughnuts. Organizers expect they will draw a crowd of about 4,000 people this year to the family-friendly festival.

“It is so unique to have a family-friendly festival and that is why we keep growing. I can’t honestly think of another like this in the Okanagan,” said Whittall.

Festival of the Grape is organized by the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce and hundreds of volunteers. Last year it attracted nearly 3,500 people from western Canada to sample the finest wines from over 50 Okanagan wineries and taste the best in Okanagan cuisine from innovative local chefs and local food vendors.

Throughout the day there is music at the grandstand, a grape stomp competition, a Kid Zone play area with activities and farm animals, local arts and crafts and trade show vendors.

New activities have been added to the schedule for kids at the Chateau de Kids fun zone including an inflatable bouncy boxing rink, the Olympic Challenge that features various races, and a circus skills workshop where kids can try out juggling, learn how to spin a plate on a stick, balloon sculpting and test out their balance skills on stilts and a unicycle.

“We have assembled a wide variety of engaging activities designed for kids and youth that will keep them entertained and active while having a ton of fun,” said Linda Berkland, co-chair of the Chateau de Kids. “We encourage parents to participate with their children in the numerous activities. There will be staff and volunteers to assist parents and kids in having a fun-filled day at the park.”

The event begins with the Parade of Wineries at noon. In addition to the other events, Juno-award winning band, The Paperboys, will be entertaining the crowd.

“The Paperboys have a mix of musical energy and talent that will have our audience dancing and engaged,” said Ed Dukes, FOG entertainment chair. “And, in terms of pure entertainment, it doesn’t get much better than good old-fashioned barefoot grape stomping where costumed contestants literally dance on grapes for five minutes at a time.”

There is a limit of 12 teams in the adult category.

“If you want to experience the thrill of a lifetime by grape stomping in front of a live audience, you had better get your teams registered early. We are expecting that this year’s teams will be the most competitive to date,” said Dukes.

Tickets for the Oliver Festival of the Grape can be purchased online at www.sochamber.ca/oliver-festival-of-the-grape. Advance tickets are $23 or $25 at the gate.

They can also be purchased at BC Wine Info Centre in Penticton, Shopper’s Drug Mart and the South OKanagan Chamber of Commerce in Oliver or Imperial Office Pro in Osoyoos.