Altus Grape Festival Celebrates Tradition, Family

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The 30th annual Altus Grape Festival recognizes the rich history of grape growing in the Arkansas Wine Capital. After the event was delayed a day due to weather, festival organizer Veronica Post said people came Saturday (July 27) ready to celebrate.

"The people are loving the weather," said Post. "The temperature's great. Everybody's full. The booths are full. It's wonderful."

The rain brought unseasonably cooler temperatures for the festival, which typically sees the thermometer hit triple digits. The grape growers said the rain has been beneficial to their vineyards this year.

Al Wiederkehr with the Wiederkehr Wine Cellars said his family had to irrigate "day and night" for months last year. He said they've had to irrigate much less this year.

"It's been a lot better this year," said Caitlyn Emigh with the Mount Bethel Winery. "Last year was really, really dry. I know at this time we were already feeding hay to the cows."

"God's blessing us very well this year with these rains," said Paul Post with the Post Familie Vineyards.

Three local wineries were represented at the festival. A spokesperson from each said it's been in a tradition in their family since their respective wineries were founded.

"It's a history, it's a tradition," said Janet Emigh with Mount Bethel Winery. "I've been doing this since I was born."

Paul Post is part of the fifth generation of grape growers at the Post Familie Vineyards. He said they're working on bringing up the sixth generation and teaching them about the vineyard and winery.

The festival attracts wine fans from all over Arkansas to Altus. Tim and Jill Collins from Eureka Springs have been going to the Altus Grape Festival for the past ten years. They said they love visiting the wineries and tasting the wines.

"It's just a great experience for everybody," said Tim.

The event is friendly for those under 21 years old too. There were a variety of games and contests for kids as well as live entertainment, shopping and concessions for the whole family.

One of the most popular attractions of the festival was the grape stomping contest. Siblings Breanna and Blake Williams were the big winners during their round of grape stomping.

"It really took a lot of leg muscle to get your legs going, but once you got used to it, you could really get going and get stomping some grapes," said Breanna. She and Blake said the grapes felt "cold" and "slimy" between their toes.

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