DUBLIN — A chill and gray sky blanketed Lu Mil Vineyard on Saturday, but it didn’t stop a throng of vendors and an explosion of visitors from descending on Dublin for the 11th annual N.C. Grape Festival.
Organizers promised a bigger and better event than the previous 10, and they delivered.
Things started before daybreak, as numerous craft, yard-sale and food vendors, and bounce houses converged to fill nearly every empty space around the pond and down the cabin road.
“It’s a real mess early on, but it eventually gets straightened out,” said Ron Taylor, owner of Lu Mil Vineyard. “And this is a good one.”
He was right.
Kicking off the morning was a pancake breakfast by the Boy Scouts of Dublin Troop 622, which seemed to have a steady stream of hungry guests. Proceeds from the breakfast benefitted the troop.
By mid-morning, the main grounds of the vineyard were teaming with folks looking for bargains in the seemingly never-ending line of tents filled with yard-sale items and a wide variety of crafts, clothing and other goodies. And the vendors were making sales throughout the day.
“It’s been good,” said Tisha Montgomery of Garland, who had tables and a blanket filled with yard-sale items. “It’s a good stream of people and they’re buying.”
Perhaps the highlight of the day — at least for children of all ages — was the annual grape-stomping event just off Doc’s Deck. About 80 bare feet stomped grapes in a bucket and competed for first- and second-place prize money in two categories. In the Adult Division (ages 13 and above), the first-place squisher was Ronnie Allen, who gathered 153 grams of juice and won $50; second place went to Jimmy Cox, who dripped 150 grams and won $20. In the Youth Division (ages 12 and under), the top stomper was Kerrigan Brown, who got 110 grams and took home $50; second place went to Sydney Russ, who drained 102 grams and won $20.
For those who were looking for some good music to dance to or just kick back and relax to, Lu Mil offered folks two venues. On Doc’s Deck was the Third River Bend band, and over on the outdoor stage was the ever-popular beach and oldies band Black Water Rhythm & Blues.
“I came for Blackwater, but was amazed at how much was going on,” said Tim Brown of Lumberton.” This is my first time here, but I’ll be back for sure.”
The fact that the Dublin Peanut Festival may not return in 2018 for its 26th year wasn’t far from at least one mind on Saturday.
“You know, if the Peanut Fest doesn’t continue, this could take over as Dublin’s best festival,” said Jesse Wickham of White Oak. “I’m not sure how much more this can expand, but if anyone can think of way, it’s probably Ron Taylor.”
With the success of Saturday’s festival, there’s little doubt that Taylor is already thinking ahead to next year’s event.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.