Escondido’s Grape Day Festival stomped through history

Grape Day Festival lived up to its name with a whole lot of grape stomping at Grape Day Park in downtown Escondido/Olivia Tosic

Despite the intense heat in Southern California the last few weeks, and the sudden hurricane and rain just one day before, The Grape Day Festival held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10 was a complete success.

We had perfect weather, comparatively, as the community of Escondido, California came together with our San Diego friends and Southern California visitors.

Dating back to the early 1900s, Escondido’s Grape Day Festival celebrated the city’s rich agricultural roots. It featured a range of entertainment. Food and grape stomping was a part of what the Escondido History Center called the city’s “one-day history lesson.”

The Brothers of Six Charities Inc., a  local group of amateur historians working to help preserve history and North County communities, decided the city needed to reinvigorate the Grape Day Festival this year following the Pandemic lull.  They did a fantastic job.

Robin Fox, director of the Escondido History Center, observed that the Grape Day Festival a fun, free, “one-day history lesson” for the city.

The original Grape Day Festival ran from 1908 until 1950, except during WWII. It celebrated our rich agricultural heritage as well as the growing community. After reviving it in 1996, the Escondido History Center held the event annually until resources and the pandemic suspended it over the past four years.

“This year, we have partnered with the Brothers of 6 Charities, a local charitable organization dedicated to preserving history, honoring veterans, and serving the community,” according to Fox. “They provide the additional energy and dedication needed to bring Grape Day ‘back to life.'”

The Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians pitched in as title sponsors. Platinum sponsors included Toyota Escondido, MSE Landscaping Professionals, Jack and Carolyn Raymond. Gold sponsors included Bernardo Winery, Jimbos Naturally, Edible San Diego, Palomar Health Foundation, and Rich and Kathryne Thorpe. Baker Elecric Home Energy was a silver sponsor.

Samantha Nawrocki, event coordinator for the festival, joined KPBS Midday Edition to talk more about how this year’s event paid homage to the festival’s earliest years.

“We’re taking it back to an agricultural festival where there’s going to be old-time games, old-time music and everything that’s basically from those early years, from 1908 up to the (first world) war, which is kind of when that first heyday of the festival sort of happened,” Nawrocki said.

Thousands of people strolled down Grand Avenue looking over the vast array of tents  sporting local vendors and historical displays.

Brothers of 6 community volunteers take a break during the festival/Olivia Tosic

The event featured old-time entertainment ranging from swing jazz to bluegrass and musical performances going back to the early 1900s. Highlights included a petting zoo, old-fashioned children’s games, face painting and balloon art. Antique farm and mining machinery, along with antique vehicles, were displayed. Hollandia Dairy featured a cow milking display.

Blacksmiths, lacemakers and other entertainers demonstrating old-world crafts were busy answering questions throughout the day about their skills as they worked away at whatever sword, steak prong or sock they made, according to The Coast News.

Thank you to everybody involved. Grape-stomping day was an absolute blast. My media crew and I were honored and proud to be a part of this event.

We have plenty of editing to do and soon we will have some amazing video, including drone captures, for you all.

A view of history, Grape Day rolls down Grand Avenue in 1927/Olivia Tosic

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