CENTRAL POINT — Take it from Ronda Holm: Turning grapes into juice with your feet is quite the workout.
Holm and her daughter Crystal, both of Medford, were one of 29 teams partaking in the unusual exercise in Del Rio Vineyards' Championship Grape Stomp Saturday at the Jackson County Harvest Festival. They won their heat and will advance to the finals at 4:30 p.m. today at The Expo in Central Point.
The Harvest Festival, presented by PremierWest Bank, continues from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at The Expo, 1 Peninger Lane, Central Point. Featured activities include more heats of the grape stomp, chili cook-off, pie-eating contest, brew festival, paintball course, a tractor museum and pumpkin launching. Tickets cost $7 for adults, $3 for children ages 6 to 11, and are free for children 4 and under and senior citizens 75 and older.
The challenge involves stomping on 30 pounds of Concord grapes and trying to make the most juice in three minutes.
"It was awesome. It was really fun," Holm said of the first-round victory, which drew a considerable crowd. "We wanted to win."
Each team of two has a stomper and a helper. Stompers stand in a large wooden bucket and squish 30 pounds of Concord grapes beneath their feet as quickly as they can, almost like running in place at top speed. Helpers clear the screens lining the bucket bottom, separating the juice from the squashed fruit, and catch the juice in a 1-gallon jug as it comes out a spout. Whoever fills the jug first or has the most juice after three minutes wins. That may not seem like much time, event organizers said, but when you're doing the stomping, it feels like a lot.
"Three minutes goes so long," said event coordinator Lori Vaccher, who participated in similar grape stomps in the mid '90s. "It's forever, but it's fun."
Contestants washed their feet at a nearby hose, and the juice was discarded. Finalists will stomp 60 pounds of grapes for five minutes today.
Several other teams joined the Holms as first-timers to the competition. Klamath Falls residents Brenda Lancaster and Dee Edison even wore shirts with the logo "First Time Winers" to proclaim their rookie status. Still, they had a strategy, with Lancaster catching the juice runoff and Edison stomping the grapes.
"I'm the clumsy one," Lancaster said. "I'd fall out of the barrel."
Other teams had experienced members. Jon Ford, who has done the grape stomp before, formed a team with his 10-year-old son, Austin. Ford acted as helper, as he recently broke his foot, with Austin on stomping duty.
"He got a bunch of juice. His legs were going to town," Ford said.
Jessi Moore of Medford and Jeremy Scheid of Eugene also wore custom-made shirts. They called themselves Team Grape Nuts, and were close to winning their heat. Both said they enjoyed the event.
"I would definitely do it again," Moore said.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at email@example.com.