Mark Brett/Western News 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

Mark Brett/Western News 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

South Okanagan celebrates grape harvest season

Oliver’s Festival of the Grape was once again the toast of the town for those who love wines and good times.



Oliver’s Festival of the Grape was once again the toast of the town for those who love wines and good times.

Thousands of people attended the community centre grounds on the weekend for an afternoon of fun in the sun and a chance to savour the best of the Okanagan’s flavours.

Kicking off with the entry parade of participating wineries, the festival got off to a rousing start courtesy of the Okanagan Portuguese drummers.

Main stage performers also included the Edmonton Swiss Men’s Choir complete with the accompanying eight-foot alphorns.

The annual grape extravaganza was just many of the special events which make up the Okanagan Fall Wine Festival which began on several fronts last weekend.

Until Oct. 11 over 150 related activities are taking place throughout the valley from Osoyoos to Kamloops, attracting an estimated 10,000 people.

“We at the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce and the Festival of the Grape committee are overwhelmed with the success of this year’s event,” said SOCC president Holly Plante.  “With the fantastic support of our sponsors and the amazing 250-plus volunteers, we were really able to take it to the next level.

“It’s astonishing the amount of community support that steps up for an event of this size, and it takes every one of them to help us make this event a success.”

As always, the grape stomp competition was among the most popular events of the afternoon as a dozen teams went toe to toe to see who could churn out the most juice.

Preliminary rounds occurred early in the day, culminating with the finals and the splitter, splatter of little feet of the top six teams. Final results were unavailable.

Among the competitors this year was Cynthia Dagg who drove 11 hours the day before from her home in Grand Prairie, Alta. to be with her teammates from the Sunnybank Stompers.

“This is actually our seventh year. We love wine, we have a passion for fun and it’s a tradition,” said Dagg, whose team were wearing the traditional fairy attire complete with wings, wound up tied for second after the first heat. “I used to work at Sunnybank (Retirement Centre in Oliver) before I moved and I wouldn’t miss it. Just being with friends, learning about wines, the sunshine — it’s snowing in Grand Prairie — it’s a great event and brings a lot of people here and to me it’s a big part of the Okanagan.”

Penticton’s Craig Newson who has been volunteering at the festival since it began, agreed: “For me the grape stomp is the key element of the festival. There is just so much excitement and so much adrenaline going. Lots of laughter, hooting and hollering. The fact it is a family event is a real charmer. There’s probably more kids here than adults at some points of the day.”

According to Plante, organizers are already working on the 2014 festival which she expects will be even bigger and better.