ELKIN — The 15th Annual Wine Festival has come to a close and the turnout was anything but stale. Guests were rolling into Elkin Municipal Park well before the festivities started around 11 a.m. and soon the grounds was mobbed with people from both inside and outside of Surry County eager to get a taste of the Yadkin Valley Vineyards.
“We’ve been here since the festival’s beginning,” said Steven Mchone, head wine maker of RagApple Lassie Vineyards. “To me this is one of the best ones in the state. Wide open, big setup, lots of people here and plenty of room. My favorite thing is the people. We get great feedback from all over the state.”
“I’ll admit, I was a little bit worried about the weather for today. There’s always a chance of thunderstorms this time of the year. I think the festival is doing so well thanks to the gorgeous weather we’ve ended up having today.”
The festival started 15 years ago when members of the chamber of commerce wanted to do a celebration that would showcase Yadkin Valley’s wineries, promote the public, and bring attention to the valley. During the day, two bands performed on stage. First guests were taken back in time to the days of the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ with Taylor Vaden’s Tribute to Elvis from noon to 2 p.m. After that, headliner Phatt City treated the audience to old time beach music, R&B and dance music. Throughout the day, Baccuhs, the Roman God of Wine and Agriculture, hobbled through the park with his goblet.
“While exploring other festivals to see how they did it, they said you’ve got to have a Bacchus,” said local resident Gary Maxey, dressed up as Bacchus. “They asked ‘where do I find a Bacchus’ and they said just find a fat guy with a beard. I’ve been playing the part ever since and I enjoy it, especially just getting to meet people throughout the day.”
At around 2 p.m., people went in front of the stage for one of the festival’s traditions, the annual grape stomp. People of all ages, from young kids to adults in their 50s were racing to see who could stomp the most grapes and fill their jar up the fastest.
”It’s my 15th year sponsoring the grape stomp,” said Gambill Aldridge of Basin Creek Reality. “They ask me to do it 15 years ago and after figuring out a way to do it we’ve been sponsoring it ever since. Everybody gets excited for it. I think the ‘I Love Lucy’ show is a good reason why it’s so popular. It also gives something for kids to do as there really aren’t that many activities for them.”
For many new vineyards, it’s an opportunity to come out and promote their wines to the public.
“It’s been really busy this year,” said Jan Wahl, owner of Adagio Winery in Elkin. “Our business has only been here a couple years so this has been a great way to spread the word. The first time we participated we came to the festival two weeks after we opened our business and we only had three wines to promote. Now it’s three years later and that number’s gone up to eight. The festival has played a huge part in our expansion and we always try to come back when we can.”
Wine was not the only commodity people could indulge in. The smell of sizzling Italian sausage and gyros filled the air during lunchtime and in the hot sun, many guests treated themselves to an ice cream cone. This was Crispin Kettle Corn’s third year of participating in the festival and their huge kettle was popping all day.
“We’ve checked into a lot of different wine festivals but we love how they’ve treated the vendors here and the way they put on the event,” said Kiera Hein of Crispin Kettle Corn with her husband Robert Hein. “One thing that keeps drawing us back is the impressive job the chamber has done in arranging this event. They go around every single vendor and give them free wine glasses and a wrist band and they let them go out and try any wine they want during or after the festival. It’s great that we can be a part of it. Plus it allows us to tell customers what we’ve discovered during our stay. That’s really cool and not a lot of events will do that.”
The festival is also an opportunity for local artists and craftsmen to come out. Jewelers, potters, weavers, and woodcutters all set up shop along the creek to showcase their work.
“It’s been a great festival.” said Jo Drewery of BeadJeweled Designs. “The people are great, the music’s fantastic, it’s just a great event to be at. It’s also a good time for crafts because a lot of people like something’s that’s original that they won’t see anywhere else. We’ve been selling all kinds of jewelry, crystals, glassware, beads, and precious stones. We incorporate theme earrings and necklaces, including wine bottle themes to keep with the festival’s mood.”
One festival invention that kept people interested was Tracey Luebber’s Swankey. Part wine cooler, part bag, her little stand caught the attention of many guests with her portable summer wine carrier.
“The invention came out of necessity,” said Tracey Luebbers, inventor and owner of The Swankey Beverage Tote. “I was inspired to make it while going to swimming pools and watching friends find ways to carry beverages, especially box and bottle wines. I imagined a beach bag that was also a cooler. This is our first time here for the festival and we love it. It’s always fun to see people react to the product and the atmosphere.”
The festival isn’t just a time for local residents to get together, it’s a place of destination for wine lovers from across the country. People were coming from the tip of Florida and even the Northern states to try out the Yadkin Valley’s many wineries and vineyards.
The weather managed to hold off for the most part Saturday. Festival goers got to enjoy a beautiful day until about 3 p.m. when the first raindrops started coming down. A thunderstorm rolled in about four just as most people were heading out. Still, it was nice of the weather to hold off for the majority of the festival. Despite the thunderous ending, it was a fantastic day for many guests who are looking forward to the next festival.
“We just came up here for one of my best friend’s graduation parties,” said Sandra, Abigail and Brittany Strickland from Fayetteville, North Carolina. “We found out this was going on so we said ‘hey, let’s go to the festival!’ We’ve loved it so far and if we get a chance to come back we definately will.”
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.