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Eat, drink, stomp and be merry

Summer is waning with cooler mornings, the rumble of yellow school buses and the bounty of our local growers gracing our dinner plates. Fall harvest is always a time for celebration, and it has become a Rogue Valley tradition to kick off the season with the annual Southern Oregon Harvest Festival.

The events, which also include the Southern Oregon BrewFest and the Battle of the Bones barbecue cookoff, kick off from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, and continue through noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18, with Growler Hour at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Seven Feather's Event Center at The Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point. Admission is free.

“This is a super-fun event and there is so much for the whole family to do,” says Helen Funk, Expo director. Over the past two decades, the festival has evolved into several events rolled into one with an abundance of food, beverages and a variety of friendly competitions like the battle of the home brews, food cook-offs and the pie-eating contest.

The grape stomp has become one of the most popular events," Funk says. “The contestants have about 30 pounds of grapes to stomp in a three-minute period, and the two-man teams compete to see who can fill their jug to the line. Believe it or not, it’s actually much harder than it looks, but the experienced teams have it down to a science. They get all dressed up and really get into it so it’s always fun to watch.” Advance signup is encouraged at www.attheexpo.com.

In case you wondered, Funk laughs, “This is totally done for fun, and these grapes will never be used for human consumption.” Good to know.

“The Battle of the Bones has moved over from the Central Point Twin Creeks area into the Expo this year. There are 12 teams competing on Friday and Saturday. Then on Sunday, there will be a people’s choice chili contest,” Funk says.

In addition to the barbecue competition, there will be a variety of food vendors, including the Aloha Grill and Southern Oregon Food and Beverage. who are bringing those delicious funnel cakes and corn-dogs, plus ice cream, hot dogs and snow cones.

For beer lovers, there is a home brew competition, and the beer garden will feature more than 60 taps with a selection of award-winning microbrews from around the Pacific Northwest, the State of Jefferson, and even some specially invited guests from the rest of the country’s favorite breweries. Five local vineyards also will be represented.

Bring your favorite sports fan along because organizers have created a Sports Zone so football lovers don’t have to miss their favorite weekend games.

“It’s a place where fans can relax and enjoy the game," Funk says. "The guys really love it.”

Wildlife Images rehabilitation and care center will return with Olympic-themed activities for the kids, including slug, tortoise and hare races and eagle nest building.

“Kids can learn about animals and their habitats, animal safety and have photo opportunities,” Funk says.

On Sunday, participants in the Rogue Run will have cause for celebration as they complete a 10K race that starts at Bear Creek Park, or a half marathon that begins in Talent, or the Boston-qualifying marathon run that originates at Emigrant Lake Park and crosses the finish line at the festival, where all races end.

“Two of our local organizers went through a very tedious process to get this marathon run sanctioned as a qualifying run for the Boston Marathon,” Funk explains, “so this will be the second group of runners to run this course."

For more information on the runs and to register, see www.theroguerun.com.

If running is not your forte but you’d still like to burn some calories after a day of indulgent eating and drinking, you can groove to tunes of regional bands. Country band Fogline will play at  7 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, Western Express will play oldies and country from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Frankie Hernandez and his band will play soul-infused funk and rock from 3:30  to 5:30 p.m., and soul singer Bishop Mayfield will perform from 6 to 8 p.m. The Danielle Kelly Soul Project will perform Motown from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

“The stock dogs also will have their annual trials, and this is one of the largest stock dog shows in the nation,” Funk says. “And in the auction barn, we have the Heifer Futurity and show, and this is often where the kids will buy their show animals for the coming fair season.”

For more information about the Southern Oregon Harvest Festival, the Southern Oregon BrewFest or the Battle of the Bones, visit www.attheexpo.com or call 541-774-8270.

Get your feet wet at the annual Grape Stomp held at the Jackson County Harvest Fair.