The “Grapes” Behind The Tontitown Grape Festival

From the grape stomp, to the grape run and Queen Concordia, the Tontitown Grape Festival revolves around the fruit. For 116 years they’ve been celebrating its importance.

The Ranalli family is the only ones who sell their grapes at the festival. They’ve been in Tontitown their entire lives and have 18 acres of grapes.

Chris Ranalli, 55, said he works with his two brothers Norbert and Paul. He said they grow 10 different varieties of grapes.

Ranalli said his family is the last commercial grape growers in Tontitown.

“Hopefully it will always be the Tontitown Grape Festival because as long as I’m living I will still keep growing grapes,” Ranalli said. “We love this business and we are here to stay.”

The Ranalli family has supplied grapes to the festival for 30 to 40 years. Ranalli said his dad was a grape grower and wine maker as well as his Italian grandfather who moved to Tontitown in 1907.

Between 1895-1897, Italian immigrants moved to Tontitown. They were grape farmers and vegetable growers, Ranalli said.

“Grapes are a big part of our culture and our tradition because there were 11 wineries here in this town either before or after prohibition,” Ranalli said.

He hopes he can pass down his passion for grape growing to future generations. His daughter Heather owns the Tontitown Winery near the festival grounds.

“I would like to see this tradition continue,” he said.

Ranalli has a tent in the festival where he sell his grapes. The grapes are also part of the desert that comes with the homemade spaghetti dinner.

“We hope we will be able to provide the Grape Festival grapes for another 50 years or however many years we possibly can,” Ranalli said.

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