Saturday afternoon found me in Vevay, Indiana, in Switzerland County, along the beautiful Ohio River, for the Swiss Wine Festival. The Festival celebrates the roots of American commercial winemaking, which started right here in Switzerland County back in the early 1800s.
I was asked to be a celebrity grape stomper by my friend Kendal Miller, PR Coordinator of Switzerland County Tourism, along with such media luminaries as Paul Poteet of WRTV Channel 6 (Indianapolis), Julie Tam of WDRB Fox 41 (Louisville), and Jen Dalton and Tara Pachmayer of WKRC Channel 12 (Cincinnati), and other notable media types from Indy, Cincinnati, and Louisville. Other celebs included Arik Hartvig from PBS’ Across Indiana, Kate Shepherd, Taylor Bennett, and Joe Ulery from WIBC/Network Indiana, and Andy Ferguson from Vevay’s own Froggy Radio.
While my primary goal was to win $1,000 for my chosen charity, Community First Initiative of Hamilton County, it was extremely important to me that a Hoosier win the entire event, since Vevay is in our own state. There was no way we could let a Buckeye or a Wild Cat take home the coveted giant novelty check. We had Hoosier pride on the line.
Everyone stomped as hard and as fast as they could. The plan was to stomp as many grapes as possible, and the juice would flow into a jug below the stage, while a swabber would keep the grate in the vat free of grape skins and debris so the juice would flow freely.
I was encouraged by my performance in the first round, I was second with 5 cups, behind Tom Davis of WRTV6, and ahead of Julie Tam and Tara Pachmeyer.. Then it all went downhill from there. After four more rounds and 15 more stompers, I ended up in 10th place. So I’m planning on going into rigorous stomp training in preparation for next year’s stomp. (First, 51 weeks of recovery, followed by 1 week of serious planning.)
In the end, Joe Ullery (WIBC) won the big prize, Elizabeth Musgrave of the West Side Community News (Indianapolis) finished second, and Paul Poteet got third. It was a Hoosier sweep, and while I like my new friends from Kentucky and Ohio, I’m not sorry they didn’t win.
We were then invited to a dinner and reception for the stompers at the Rosemont Inn, with some excellent food provided by Howard Awand and his staff, and a beautiful view of the Ohio River. My kids played on the huge hill, while we chatted with Kendal and Mark from Switzerland County Tourism.
Afterward, we took the kids back to the Swiss Wine Festival, and we took the change to ride some of the rides. I was looking forward to riding the Zero Gravity ride, a spinning centrifugal force ride that kept riders glued to the wall. However, unlike the centrifugal force rides I rode when I was a kid, this one lifted on a hydraulic arm, and turned nearly 90 degrees, so that it was perpendicular to the ground. It rotated about once every three seconds, so I found myself at the top of the ride, with only the laws of physics to keep me in place. Luckily, I was able to maintain enough intestinal control that dinner did not make a return appearance. Unfortunately, it also marked the last time I ride one of those things.
We also spent the night at the Best Western Ogle Haus, courtesy of the hotel, before heading off to a complimentary breakfast buffet at the Belterra Casino. Let me tell you, I have not seen a breakfast buffet this hearty and delicious since I was in Disney World five years ago.
I don’t visit as many festivals as I would like, but there also aren’t that many that I’ll travel more than 30 minutes to visit. But the Swiss Wine Festival is now one of my favorites, and one I plan on visiting year after year.
|Swiss Wine Festival 2009|