Grape juice splattered and the crowd cheered at the 26th annual Calaveras Grape Stomp and Gold Rush Street Faire in Murphys on Saturday, Oct. 5.
The Grape Stomp is put on by the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance every year in order to celebrate the grape harvest and raise funds for scholarships and community organizations.
The concurrent street fair on Main Street is organized by the Feeney Park Foundation in order to raise funds for the park.
Visitors filed into Murphys Community Park from all directions beginning at 9 a.m. on Oct. 5. Numerous sponsors set up booths on the grass, and wine, beer and food were served.
Some viewed auction prizes displayed on tables, while others purchased T-shirts and auction tickets.
Ten half-barrels were placed on a long stage next to the gazebo. Rows of white fold-up chairs filled with attendees as the beginning of the competition neared.
Announcer Doug Brown held a microphone up to competitors as they introduced themselves. They came from across the state, and most dressed in costume and had colorful team names like “Wino Women,” “Rosé All Day” and “Pour Choices.”
On a signal from Brown, stompers leapt into their barrels, vigorously squashing dark-purple grapes with bare feet. Swabbers knelt down in front of them, adjusting the grapes and ensuring that juice continued to flow into clear plastic buckets. The crowd cheered and shouted encouragement.
After three minutes, the heat ended and the juice-filled buckets were collected by members of the Bret Harte High School football team to be measured. The players emptied the barrels and filled them with a fresh supply of grapes for the next round, while their coaches supervised.
Stacy Pardini, of Livermore, sat with her friend Julie Murillo, of Copperopolis, in the front row. It was the first time the two friends had been to the event.
“We almost joined right before,” Pardini said.
“Until we saw how messy they get,” Murillo added. “Maybe next year; we can prepare ourselves.”
The “Chico Crushers” won the first round of the competition. Team member Don Navarro, of Chico, said that his favorite part of the event was the people.
“Everyone that’s here; that we’ve met over the years. It’s such a great party,” he said.
The “Fabulous Wine-Steins” competed in the next heat. While they didn’t win the round, their costumes made them a fan favorite. The two women were dressed in white lab coats and wore frizzy, gray wigs and fake mustaches. Their name tags read “Alberta.”
“This is probably my seventh year,” said team member Nancy Shaughnessy, of Murphys. “It’s just so much fun to get together. I have a girls’ weekend, and they all come up, and then we dress up and come here and stomp.”
Shaughnessy and her teammate, Jan Hawley, of San Francisco, placed third in the costume contest. Second place went to Randy and Nelson Gillmore, of Murphys. And first place went to Bill Collins and John Gambertogilio, of Burlingame.
Event coordinator Donna Schantz said that a lot of people are responsible for running the event every year.
“We have the Bret Harte football team – they are our barrel handlers. We’ve got a dozen or more stage crew. And then all of the volunteers that man the different booths throughout the day; and there’s several shifts of that. And then the silent auction. A multitude of volunteers.”
“You have to have volunteers to make it work,” Brown said. “It’s just giving back to the community. It’s just that simple. I’ve done it for 26 years.”
At 10 a.m., the Gold Rush Street Faire began on Main Street. Booths lined the length of the street, which was closed to traffic. Some sold food, while others sold handmade crafts and artwork. The town was filled with visitors of all ages throughout the day.
At 5 p.m., the winners of the Grape Stomp competition were announced. Third place went to Dale and Jennifer Marcum of the “Grapeful Dead.” Second place went to Greg and Brian Wright of “The Wright Stuff.” And first place went to Matt and Sewell Hatcher of “Hatcher Winery,” who took home $200 and a case of wine.
The audience applauded as prizes were awarded.
“Thank you all for coming and we hope to see you next year,” Brown said.