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A stomping good time

Echo Press photo by Eric Morken Carlos Creek Winery's annual grape stomp last weekend got a great reaction from onlookers. Teams of two participate in the challenge, which include stomping the grapes and collecting the juice.1 / 4
Echo Press photo by Eric Morken Entertainment at the annual Grape Stomp Festival at Carlos Creek Winery last weekend included the Ziva Gypsy Belly Dancers from Alexandria.2 / 4
Echo Press photo by Eric Morken Alexis Rasset (top) of Bismarck embraced her mom, Louann Nider of Mandan, North Dakota, after the two won the championship stomp-off on Sunday afternoon. It took a rematch in the finals to determine the champion after Rasset and Mandan stomped to a tie against their opponent in their first attempt to determine a winner.3 / 4
Echo Press photo by Eric Morken Megan Stacey of Ely fed some hay to one of the alpacas at the Grape Stomp out at the Carlos Creek Winery this past Sunday.4 / 4

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."

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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