Stompers were once again at the fun forefront of the annual Festival of the Grape Sunday in Oliver
Like past years, thousands of people crowded the Community Centre Park to cheer on their favourite fruit crushers and sample some of the region’s best varietals during the afternoon celebration.
“We’re here to have a good time — lots of fun and this is a huge part of that,” said co-ordinator Ed Dukes, sporting his traditional multi-balloon headdress and nodding in the direction of the competition site. “Everybody loves this event and the participants really get into it as you can tell be some of the costumes.
“But the real reason it’s so popular? Well that’s probably the wine, if you know what I mean.”
Mix in the delectable delights offered up by the many food venders, the family friendliness and other unique aspects of the event and you have the perfect recipe for success, according to the organizer.
“It’s also a chance to see old friends and meet new ones,” said Dukes. “Along with the locals we get people from all over, a lot from Vancouver and some from Calgary and Edmonton and I believe some people actually came from San Diego this year.”
Visitors like Ken Strandell of Coquitlam, who while he may be an out-of-towner, is no stranger to the festival, volunteered his time again this year at the stomp.
“We’re having a blast,” said Strandell as he piled another pitchfork of grapes into a competition barrel. “I like to be involved in the community and I love the small-town atmosphere and everybody getting together. It reminds me of my childhood growing up in Colwood.
Enjoying the “fruits of everyone’s labour” was an added bonus noted the Lower Mainland resident with a smile.
Another regular, Matthew Shybunka, made the trip from Edmonton, Alta. for the third time to enjoy the activities in Oliver.
“I come here every second year,” said Shybunka as he moved between the more than 100 venders offering up their wares beneath the colourful canopies. “It’s really a lot of fun and while we’re here we also stop at a lot of the wineries and hit Penticton and a few other places.”
Headline entertainment this year was provided by the RnB Icons, who moved audiences with their tributes to some of Motown’s greats.
New for 2011 was the display of vehicles organized through the Okanagan Sports Car Club.
“This is just too much fun,” said first-time visitor Al Jacobsen of Salmon Arm between swillings. “We’ll definitely be back next year.”