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Festivities and fun on tap at annual Harvest Fair

From a grape stomp to a chili cook-off, the Southern Oregon Harvest Fair & Brew Fest hosts a roster of entertaining competitions in addition to award-winning microbrews.

The festival runs from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18, noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20, at the Seven Feather's Event Center at The Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point. Admission is free.

Helen Funk, director of The Expo, says the grape stomp — in which contestants use their bare feet to pummel as much juice out of grapes as they can — is a crowd favorite at the annual festival.

"The contestants have about 30 pounds of grapes to stomp in a three-minute period," she says. "The liquid is measured and the winners move on. It's very messy and the teams really get into it. They wear team T-shirts and some even dye their hair. It's something people look forward to all year."

The two-person teams have a stomper and a helper. The champions will receive Harvest Festival medals and two admission tickets to the 2016 Jackson County Fair.

In between watching and competing in contests, festival-goers can visit the beer and wine garden and sample from more than 60 local, Pacific Northwest and national beers and wines.

A souvenir glass and taste tickets to sample six drinks are $15. Six taste tickets alone are $5. The cost is $1 each for additional taste tickets.

To go with the beer and wine, people can taste the results of cooking contests while supplies last and cast votes for their favorites. Food tastings cost $5.

Chicken-wing contest tastings are from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, chili tastings are from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and barbecue rib tastings are from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Vendors will sell food that includes cheeseburgers, hot dogs and sausage dogs, Hawaiian food, funnel cake, ice cream and snow cones.

"Come with a great appetite and a love for these kinds of food," Funk says.

Kids and adults are invited to enter the Rooster's Restaurant pie-eating contest at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the children's area. Entry is free but limited to the number of pies on hand. Look for Annie the Clown and sign up for the contest.

To further entertain kids, the Wildlife Images wildlife rehabilitation and care center will present Camp EEK!, which offers fun activities and a chance to meet animal ambassadors.

Kids can enter tortoise and slug races, an eagle nest-building contest, a coloring contest and a haystack-hunt game. Listen to animal stories and decorate pumpkins.

Tickets sold for participation in Camp EEK! activities support Wildlife Images.

Cattle shows and sales, along with stock dog trials, will bring a rustic flair to the festival. The 2015 Cow Dog Classic stock dog trials, in which dogs and their handlers work to herd cattle, will take place throughout the weekend.

"It's an art in and of itself," Funks says about the stock-dog herding.

Live music is planned from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The featured musical guests are Jim Lesher & The Western Express country and classic rock band on Friday, country music singer and songwriter Scott William Perry on Saturday and popular cover band Colonel Mustard on Sunday.

The festival also is the endpoint for the Rogue Rambler one-mile race Saturday and the Rogue Run 10K, half-marathon and marathon Sunday. The marathon, new this year, is an official qualifying race for the Boston Marathon.

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

Funk says the festival is still looking for volunteers over the age of 21 to help. Each person who volunteers a two-hour shift will receive a $15 voucher to be used at the festival or future events at The Expo.

For more information about the Southern Oregon Harvest Festival & Brew Fest, see www.attheexpo.com or call 541-774-8270.

Pumpkin painting will be among the kids activities at the Southern Oregon Harvest Fair and Brew Fest. Photo courtesy of Terry Tuttle