A stomping good time
They danced, sipped wine, laughed and had a stomping good time.
More than 15,100 people attended last weekend's Grape Stomp and Fall Festival at Carlos Creek Winery.
They also came earlier this year, descending on the winery at around noon on Friday. Another big crowd was on hand to take in the Lamont Cranston Band on Friday night.
"We had about 575 people here on Friday so that was a big burst in attendance," said Tami Bredeson, owner of the winery. "Some are even pressuring us to make this a three-day event...I think it's great for the community when people stay overnight. There's more 'heads in beds' at the hotels and people out at our restaurants and gas stations."
Saturday's crowd was up about 20 percent from last year, Bredeson said.
Sunday's numbers were about the same as previous years, which Bredeson said wasn't bad considering the fact that the winery was competing against both the Vikings and Twins that day.
The chance to stomp grapes continues to entice visitors. The winery received so many requests that all the spots were booked on Saturday and it had to add another 24 teams at the last minute.
Besides turning grapes into wine with their feet, visitors also took in entertainment - a comedian/juggler, a bag piper, a pottery maker, a chainsaw wood carver, a weaver, a glass blower and more.
Another crowd favorite were the alpacas, which resemble small llamas and were brought in from the Glenwood area. Bredeson said children enjoyed interacting with the mild-mannered animals and hearing the gentle purring or humming noise they make.
The food is another big draw. There were 150 vendors at this year's stomp.
"We reduced the numbers intentionally so they'd do better," Bredeson said. "We want to have enough choices to make it fun for people while keeping the focus on the music, entertainment and wine."
Visitors arrived from all over the country.
"We had people come from Georgia and Florida," Bredeson said, listing just a couple of examples. "Some people turn it into a family reunion or a girls' get-together."
About 150 stomp-goers who purchased recreational vehicles at Steinbring RV turned out for the event, Bredeson added.
The winery's decision to offer a shuttle service from Alexandria hotels worked well, Bredeson said.
So did having about 15 law enforcement students from the Alexandria Technical and Community College and Douglas County sheriff's deputies on hand.
"Their presence was amazing - low key but just enough to make people aware they were there," Bredeson said.
About 80 volunteers and winery employees worked the event, which is billed as Minnesota's first and largest wine festival.
Putting on such a big event takes a lot of planning and hard work, but Carlos Creek Winery believes the effort is well worth it.
"The community is great in supporting us and coming out," said Bredeson. "So I'd like to give a personal 'thank you' to everyone who came and everyone who helped us out."