Local media members give their tips on how to win at the 34th annual Great Italian Festival grape stomping contest
The Eldorado Resort Casino is hosting the 34th annual Eldorado Great Italian Festival Oct. 10-11 in downtown Reno. Celebrate Italian culture with housemade food, live music and activities like the sauce cook-off and the children's gelato-eating contest. When it comes to celebrating the Italian tradition, however, the grape stomp remains the crowd favorite.
For the past 33 years, members of the public, politicians, local media figures and even a few celebrities have tried their hands -- and feet -- at traditional grape stomping in an effort to juice as many grapes as they can in the time allotted.
Teams comprise two people -- the stomper and the mucker. Both are important because the stomper really has to get all the grapes stomped out, and the person who mucks needs to get in there and make sure they keep the stuff away from the screen, said Angela Kabisch, director of advertising and public relations for the Eldorado, who has been to the past 32 festivals.
Wine barrels from Ferrari-Carano Winery are cut in half and fitted with a screen and nozzle designed to collect the juice and leave the stems and skins. Eight teams of two compete at a time, with the winner collecting the most juice, by weight, in their jug at the end of three minutes.
First-place teams are awarded sterling silver commemorative belt buckles, with second and third receiving bottles of Ferrari-Carano wine, but bragging rights as the fastest stomping duo in town draw fierce competitors.
Saturday is open to the members of the public who are interested in the grape stomp.
"And then Sunday is local media, politicians; we have firemen versus the cops," Kabisch said. "The biggest one is usually the media, so we have local radio personalities, writers, TV anchors, all come down and that really turns into a competition."
Local radio hosts Bill Schulz and Connie Wray from Alice 96.5 are veteran stompers with nearly 15 years experience and numerous forays into the top three. They shared their tips for controlling the chaos and producing the juice:
"You MUST have an excellent mucker and stomper with large quick feet. Bill can keep a screen as clean as a hospital bathroom. He moves quickly to push the juice through the screen while moving aside grapes and stems. You can't be afraid of a little cut!! This is about winning," they said.
Wray, the stomper of the team, "is an athlete with GIANT webbed feet," and said the way to win is to keep up the pace.
"Never stop stomping, that is the key. No matter how tired you get, keep those feet moving. Connie has also found that a bellini (or three) before really keeps the feet warm and stomp-ready," Wray and Schulz said.
Members of the public interested in signing up for the event should do so in person at the Grape Stomp stage on Saturday morning.