This Sunday is promising to be a really great grape-stomping good time in Oliver.
Started in 1997, organizers of this year’s annual Festival of the Grape are gearing up for could be the biggest turnout in the event’s history.
Attendance last year at Oliver Community Park shot through the roof with an estimated 4,300 coming out to enjoy the festivities.
And two years ago what’s become the festival’s signature event, the grape stomp competition had only a dozen entries.
“Now we’ve grown to 30 teams with a waiting list to get in,” said Jenn Nelson, executive director, Oliver Tourism Association & Oliver Visitor Centre, festival organizers. “It’s a fun festival. We’ve seen people from China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Germany — we see people from all over the world.
“Because we celebrate not just the grape, but the entire harvest, the fact that it’s in the fall is intentional. It was a wine maker and hotelier that started this event all those years ago and getting people to be aware what farming roots exist here in Oliver and it’s just gotten more and more well known and prevalent from that.”
Last year also featured a special guest in the name of Rick Mercer of the long running CBC series the Mercer Report, who competed in the grape stomping competition.
“That didn’t affect last year (attendance) because we couldn’t share the information in advance,” said Nelson. “It gave us exposure on a level we hadn’t had before.”
This year there will be over 50 wineries represented on the park grounds along with 60 vendors.
The Big Easy Funk Ensemble, a nine-piece band from Vancouver will provide the musical entertainment.
As always the kids’ zone makes the festival a truly family friendly event and over 200 volunteers from the community will be working to make sure everyone has a good time.
Nelson added there is always something new and for the first time this year there will be a wine store on site where people can purchase what they sample.
“So what we’re saying is meander in and sip your way through some of your old loves and find new favourites,” said Nelson.
As well, on site again this year will be he Fall Art Show and Sale at the Oliver Community Centre in conjunction with the Oliver Community Arts Council.
Tickets include a souvenir wine glass and three tasting tickets. Students and children get in free.
Gates open open at noon.
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Mark Brett | Reporter
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