s
s
Sections
Sections
Search
Subscribe

Grape Stomp fun at the Harvest Fair


A mother-and-son team from Santa Rosa nabbed the World Championship Grape Stomp title Sunday, their seventh non-consecutive year taking the sweat-earned prize at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.

By now they've got the system down: Kopa Kaluahine, 32, stomps — with size 14 feet. His mother, Michelle Kaluahine, 58, is the "swabby," the person scooping the juice through the screen and into a jug, all the while keeping grape pulp from clogging the spigot.

"My mom has the hard job. I'm just stomping, building the juice," said Kopa Kaluahine, a daycare worker.

The grape-stomping stage was a rowdy center of action at the fairgrounds in Santa Rosa Sunday, which hosted an otherwise much more subdued Harvest Fair this year, with smaller crowds and fewer activities and displays.

The grape stomp drew people from as far as Alaska and North Dakota, who came to get soaked in grape pulp and juice alongside Sonoma County competitors.

But beyond the cheers at the grape stomp pavilion, the Harvest Fair on its final day Sunday was subdued.

"We've had a lot of families coming in here saying they're disappointed," said Julie Johnson, who was manning a booth for Sebastopol's Mom's Apple Pie inside the Hall of Flowers.

Johnson, a Montgomery High School alumna who is not related to this reporter, said the change appeared to take many by surprise.

"When I was growing up, I remember hay rides and haunted houses," Johnson said.

At the Wine Country Shipping booth, Robin Jackson said that in previous years they've had a steady stream of customers throughout the day.

This year, they'd have a rush early in the day and then again when the wine tasting pavilion closes at 4 p.m.

"It doesn't feel like previous years," said Jackson, director of sales with her family's Windsor-based company.

After years of declining attendance, the Harvest Fair organizers had to try something new, said fair manager Tawny Tesconi.

Last year alone, the fair experienced a 22 percent drop in children attendees and a similar drop among adults who weren't wine tasting.

This year, the fair poured its efforts into its wine-tasting pavilion, adding beer and cider and opting for $50 all-you-can-sip tickets. Food demonstrations, including the "World Wrapped" competition, were quite popular, she said.

Although its too early to say, fair organizers may consider adding additional ticket options next year for people who only care to try one or two wines.

They also will discuss how and if they might bring back a more robust program of activities for children.

"I know there were people who missed the old Harvest Fair format," Tesconi said. "We heard it from people. We're going to go back to the board."

Outside the tasting pavilion, Christina Davis, 39, of Santa Rosa, and her family rested in the shade. Longtime fair attendees, this year's fair was an adults-only event for the first time, she said.

"We made a decision not to bring the little ones, and it was a good decision," said Davis, noting there would be little for children to do.

Although Davis said she missed the crafts on display in years past, she echoed others who said the wine-tasting was a more pleasant experience.

"We got to really talk with the vendors and taste more," Davis said.

The addition of beer and cider was a boon for several members of her family, including her brother-in-law, who preferred the Ace Pumpkin Cider by Sebastopol's California Cider Co. over the wines he tried.

"It had just a hint of pumpkin and spice," said Tom Westfall, 45, of Santa Rosa.

In the Garden of Earthly Delights exhibition, Lee-Ling and Leland Van Den Daele of Rohnert Park peppered a Calistoga farmer about Biodynamic gardening practices.

Next they were heading to a beekeeping demonstration, along with their sons, ages 10 and 9.

Lee-Ling Van Den Daele said she was disappointed she couldn't enter her nasturtium jelly into a food craft competition, as in previous years.

Yet, there was still a lot to gain for those interested in honing a craft represented in demonstrations throughout the fair.

"It may be a better experience for those who come for the knowledge but with kids, there is less here," Leland Van Den Daele said.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.