Good times flow at Festival of the Grape

Record crowd of 3,500 took part in annual Oliver festival

Walter Baxter of Calgary

Walter Baxter of Calgary

Dressed in his giant, multi-coloured, polka dot bow tie, with shiny green locks flowing around his shoulders, Kaleden’s Jack Howard was obviously not someone to be messed with.

Fortunately, the only thing to feel the wrath of his heavy boots this day was the half-barrell of fruit in the grape-stomping competition at the South Okanagan Chamber of Commerce Festival of the Grape at the Oliver community centre grounds.

A member of team May the Force Be With You, Howard was competing with and against family and out-of-town friends in what is always the highlight of the event.

The festival this year attracted an expected, record-setting attendance of about 3,500 for the afternoon of fun and frivolity, not to mention some excellent vintage to boot.

“We’re here with a whole bunch of people from Ottawa and we’re hoping to beat the hell out them, but they’ve got strength in numbers,” said Howard, as he climbed into the barrel for his turn. “This is just a real nice celebration and showing the rest of the country, maybe even the world, what great things are happening in the valley.”

Chamber CEO Bonnie Dancey was especially happy with the response from those who came from many miles away to drink in the flavour of the region.

“We don’t have exact figures yet, but yes, I believe we did set some records, it was fantastic,” she said. “The weather co-operated, the band was great, the energy of the people was amazing.

“I think the reason (for the success) is word is spreading and because this is just one of the many events that are going on around the same time. I talked to people who had been at the Wild West Fest the day before (in Okanagan Falls ) and the Garlic Festival in Hester Creek. It seems the more things happening, the more people come out.

That included people like Al Campion and his wife Elaine of Alberta, who are visiting to take in the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival. They stumbled on the grape festival almost by accident while driving through Oliver.

“I can’t believe this,” said Al, sweeping his arm at the sea of people coming and going from the large tents where samples of local reds and whites were being served. “What a great idea and everyone just seems to be having so much fun. This is how wine should be enjoyed, lots of friends and plenty of laughter, and add in the sunshine and you’ve got the perfect mix.”