by Kat Robinson
It’s the latter I really wanted to try tonight. Earlier in the week disappointment had set in, though. I’d called up and asked about being able to stomp Friday night (I have another assignment Saturday in Heber Springs) but was told that the only grape stomping Friday would be a celebrity grape stomping, and it was full. Well, fair enough.
My photographer and I got into Altus as the festival was kicking off early this evening. The temperatures were still in the upper 90s and all around we noticed people seated and fanning themselves. But there was a lot of fun going on. The kids were playing on inflatable air toys and on the playground and swings. There was a lot of opportunity for shopping for arts and crafts and tie-dye t-shirts. There was grilling and smoking and concessions and live music, another great Arkansas festival underway.
But damn it was hot. Grav and I ducked into Kelt’s — my favorite pub in the whole wide world, in case you were wondering. I wanted to share with him this great spot for suds and a steak. He’d volunteered to go back out and shoot the celebrity grape stomp for me. I just wanted my iced tea and the AC.
We talked for a bit with people there, including Dan the owner/cook, and then Grav was on his way. I got through my second glass of iced tea and was talking with a group at the next table when Grav came running in.
“Kat, go change, now!” he hollered.
“They have a space in the grape stomp.”
I jumped up. “Dan, we’ll be back in a few!” I hollered, and took off out the door and down the street to go get my other clothes out of the car. See, I’m an optimist. I really hoped I’d get the chance to stomp grapes. Never done it before. Wanted a shot. You know how that is, right?
We each shed our shoes and socks and climbed up on the dais, where we washed off our feet with a spray hose. Paul Post from Post Familie Vineyards explained the rules to us — we’d step into the half-barrels at “ready,” and on “go” we’d have 45 seconds to stomp the grapes and produce as much juice as possible. At the end of 45 seconds, we’d step out and our smashing would be drained and measured.
Paul called “ready” and we all stepped in. And the grapes were pretty cold. They were also rather slippery, moreso than I had anticipated. No time to think about that, though. Soon we were to “go” and we were all mashing for all we were worth.
I found myself quickly doubled over, just like the other contestants, holding onto the edge of the barrel for dear worth and hoping I wouldn’t fall and bust my tail on this stage. I found if I held on I could get going pretty fast, but let me tell you what — quick stomps over 45 minutes worth of time actually feels more like… well, it’s hard to describe. You get tired quick. It’s not like “I Love Lucy.” It’s heavy work!
I just knew I hadn’t done that well. I saw so many unburst grapes floating in the half-barrel I had stomped in. But when my bottle was held up after its turn under the funnel, it was just about an inch away from full. A few moments later and it was apparent — somehow or another I’d won the damn thing.
It was cool. I was really looking forward to the competition (as you can read over in a Tie Dye Travels entry from earlier this week). And I had a great time.
As soon as we’d settled things up, Grav and I made a bee-line over to Kelt’s, where Dan had kept our places for us. We sat and he delivered out our dinners, ready to go when we got in. Yeah, another great reason I love Altus.
The Altus Grape Festival continues through Saturday. Go stomp some grapes and have a good time.