There was hardly any elbow room Saturday afternoon in Murphys Community Park as hundreds of people crowded around a stage set up near the park’s gazebo to watch teams of two smash, squish, swab and stomp their way to victory at the 19th annual Calaveras Grape Stomp.
Crowded conditions were also found along Murphys Main Street where thousands of visitors spent the day perusing vendor booths at the 22nd Gold Rush Street Faire benefiting Feeney Park, community-built sports fields on the edge of town. Heavy crowds were constant throughout the day. Jackie and Dick Morris of Copperopolis, staffing the Calaveras Wine Grape Alliance’s booth on Main Street, were down to only seven commemorative glasses out of the six cases they started out with only a few hours before when they arrived for their shift.
“You might want to check down in the park, but we’re about to run out up here,” said Jackie, indicating a successful turnout for an event that, for many, officially heralds the start of the autumn season.
Stomp visitors turned out from near and far. Alan and Barbara Hart, San Jose residents who had attached numerous bright purple balloons to their persons, said that they try to make every Grape Stomp event, and have missed only one over the past seven years.
“This year our theme is ‘Abundant Harvest,’” commented Barbara as she and her husband posed for pictures. “We love coming out here and saying hello to our favorite wineries. We love going back and promoting Calaveras wines, that’s what this event is all about.”
The appreciation from guests was not lost on members of the Calaveras Wine Grape Alliance who extended the same warmth to their customers. Adele Vervoort and Judy Creighton both commented on the positivity of this year’s crowd and noted that visitors were pleased to learn that profits from the Stomp portion of the event are redistributed into the community.
“We’ve had a lot of people asking what happens to the money,” said Vervoort. “They’re happy when they hear everything stays within our community. It’s a very nice crowd this year.”
The “very nice crowd” maintained that civility, even in the final heats of the infamous Stomp competition when chants of “Stomp!” reached roaring levels. “Let’s let the folks up on Main Street hear what they’re missing,” cheered Stomp emcee Doug Brown to a responsive audience.
No one has quite pinpointed what sort of technique is necessary to master the sport of stomping grapes, but competitors were enthusiastically experimenting with a medley of moves both barefoot and shoed.
Despite effective stomp technique being shrouded in mystery, it was clear that this year’s 2012 Calaveras Grape Stomp winners, father-son duo Greg and Brian Wright – of Murphys and Hercules, respectively – of The Wright Stuff, must have some authority on the topic as they reached the final Stomp heat for the second year running.
The Wright Stuff, with a winning 18.67 pounds of resulting juice, took home two rosettes, a $200 cash prize, a case of wine and bragging rights as Grape Stomp champions. 2011’s champion team, The Grapeful Dead, walked away with second place, followed by the Cluster Busters in third.
According to Murphys Community Park member Gerry Nelson, the Wrights were more than deserving of this year’s championship title. “They were out here yesterday and early this morning helping us set up,” said Nelson. “Last year they stayed to help us break everything down and I anticipate they’ll help again this year and the following. They’re a tremendous help,” he said.
For more photos of 2012 Grape Stomp and Gold Rush Street Faire festivities visit calaverasenterprise.com.