The 15th annual Yadkin Valley Wine Festival came to a close and this year the participation was anything but stale. Guests started rolling into Elkin Municipal Park long before the festivities began at 11 a.m. Soon the grounds were packed with people from across the country eager to taste the vineyards of the Yadkin Valley.
“We’ve been participating in the festival ever since the beginning and to me this is one of the best wine festivals in the state,” said Steven Mchone, head winemaker of RagApple Lassie Vineyards. “You have wide open space, big setups, lots of people here and plenty of room. My favorite thing though has to be the people. We get great feedback from all over the state.”
The festival originally started 15 years ago when members of the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce wanted to do a celebration to showcase the region’s wineries, promote the public, and bring attention to the valley.
As bands entertained throughout the day, Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and agriculture, stumbled about the festival grounds 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.”
The wine festival is a great destination for people from across the country, not just the local area. People were coming from the tip of Florida and the northern states to try out the Yadkin Valley’s wineries and vineyards.
One of the festival’s memorable events is the grape stomp. People of all ages, young kids and adults in their 50s, were racing to see who could stomp the most grapes and fill their jar up the fastest.
“They asked me to do it 15 years ago and after figuring out a way to do it, we’ve been sponsoring it ever since,” said Gambill Aldridge of Basin Creek Reality. “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, the festival gives an opportunity to come out and promote their wines to the public.
“Our business has only been here a couple years so this has been a great way to spread the word,” said Jan Wahl, owner of Adagio Winery in Elkin. “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 gyros and Italian sausage filled the air during lunchtime and in the hot sun, many guests treated themselves an ice cream cone. Crispin Kettle Corn has been popping corn at the fesival for three years.
“One thing that keeps drawing us back is the impressive job the chamber has done in arranging this event,” said Kiera Hein of Crispin Kettle Corn with her husband, Robert Hein. “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. Woodcutters, weavers, potters and jewelers all set up shop along the creek to show off their work.
“It’s a good time for crafts because a lot of people like something that’s original that they won’t find anywhere else,” said Jo Drewery of BeadJeweled Designs. “We’ve been selling all kinds of beads, jewelry, crystals, glassware and precious stones. We incorporate them into 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 bag, part wine cooler, her portable summer wine carrier caught the attention of countless guests as being the answer to their summer drinking endeavors.
“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.”
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.
“I’ll admit, I was a little bit worried about the weather for today,” said Mchone. “There’s always a chance of thunderstorms this time of the year but I think the festival is doing so well thanks to the gorgeous weather we’ve ended up having today.”
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. “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 definitely will.”
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.