By Keith Lacey
You know you’re involved in a special event when the number of people attending exceeds an entire town’s population.
That’s exactly what happened this past Sunday as organizers estimate more than 5,000 people poured into Oliver Community Park for a full day of stomping grapes, drinking wine, eating food, listening to music and generally having a wonderful time.
The 23rd annual Festival of the Grape (FOG) was a roaring success, this year blessed with sunny skies and warm temperatures. The 2019 FOG had one of its largest turnouts ever.
The most popular event at the annual FOG is the Grape Stomp, which this year attracted a record number of 30 teams.
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For the uninitiated, the Grape Stomp involves team members alternating to try and stomp as many grapes and extract as much grape juice as humanly possible in a short period of time.
The Osoyoos Oliver Winery Association (OOWA) is the official sponsor of the Grape Stomp event and it was thrilling to see so many people having such a great time, said executive director Jennifer Busmann.
“We had a great event with a record number of teams involved,” said Busmann. “We had 30 teams … and we had five really great heats and in our finals. We actually, for the first time, had to have a stomp off as two of the teams finished with the exact same amount gathered.
“Never in the history of FOG have we had a stomp off, but we did this year and it just added to a fantastic event.”
The two finalists – the CIBC Power Juicers and the Walnut Beach Nut Crushers – had one member stomp again for two minutes before a winner was declared. The CIBC Power Juicers came out on top capturing third place.
The event was won by the Apex Mountain Fire Department team. An international flair was added by the runners-up Brits on Holiday.
Having Mother Nature co-operate with a beautiful fall day certainly contributed to the huge crowds on Sunday, said Ms. Busmann.
“It was a really nice, sunny day when the gates first opened and stayed nice all day,” she said. “I know there are always tickets sold in advance, but the majority of tickets sell day of so weather always does play a critical role in the numbers of people who show up.”
The FOG event has been around so long that large numbers always show up, rain or shine, but the huge crowd this year was boosted in large part because of the sunny skies and warm temperatures, she said.
“I think the event has been around long enough and has garnered a strong enough reputation that people come rain or shine and just dress appropriately for the weather,” she said.
Festival of the Grape was organized this year by Oliver Tourism, with OOWA contributing a significant amount of people resource.
Representatives from all of the association’s 43 member wineries were on hand during this year’s event, as well as numerous other wineries from the Okanagan and other areas of the province.
The annual Cask and Keg, which has been held on the Saturday evening before FOG each of the past several years, was again a big success as participants got to taste local craft beer and spirits.
Once again this year, a garlic festival was held Saturday at Hester Creek Estate Winery near Oliver.
“We’re now getting a really good mix of people from Oliver and Osoyoos, but also all over B.C. and a lot from the Lower Mainland, as well as Alberta,” she said.
“This is the event that officially launches the fall wine festival season in this area.”
It’s hard to believe FOG will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in less than two years, said Ms. Busmann, who has been involved in various capacities for more than 15 years.
“I’m sure there will be a big celebration for the 25th anniversary … it’s a very long time to have a special event like this take place,” she said. “Especially an event that is volunteer-driven … it will be a very big deal to hit that 25-year mark.”
The inaugural FOG event back in 1997 attracted only 200 wine lovers, so seeing it evolve and grow into a “can’t miss” event in a small community like Oliver has been exciting and exhilarating, said Ms. Busmann.
“I think it was always the goal to have this turn into an amazing success story, but for it to come to fruition is like a dream come true,” she said.
“To see this happen long term and the impact it has had on small communities like Oliver and Osoyoos is something to be proud of.”