Bigger, better N.C. Grape Festival is Saturday at Lu Mil Vineyard

By: Chrysta Carroll - Bladen Journal

DUBLIN — After a year without a local festival, organizers are gearing up for an extraordinary event this year.

The N.C. Grape Festival, held annually at Lu Mil Vineyard and scheduled last year for Oct. 8, was pre-empted by Hurricane Matthew.

“We hated to miss last year, so we’re really trying to make it special this year,” said Lu Mil’s Denise Bridgers.

And special it will be. For the 11th annual festival, organizers have a basically all-new lineup, jump started by a pancake breakfast.

“We’re so excited about this,” Bridgers commented. “We’ve never had a breakfast before, but people are coming on the property early anyway to set up, and now they’ll have something to eat.”

She added, “We want to encourage the public to come as well.”

The $5 meal, which will be served beginning at 7 a.m., will include pancakes, sausage, and milk, juice or coffee. Proceeds benefit the Dublin Boy Scouts.

Lu Mil has secured two bands for entertainment throughout the day. From 9:30 to noon will be Third River Bend, a music group Bridgers called “a talented local group playing a variety of music.”

Third River Bend will perform at Doc’s Deck.

Taking over at noon will be the Clarkton-based Blackwater Rhythm & Blues, a nine-member group devoted to a mix of classic beach music, soul, funk, and classic R&B. The group won Song of the Year in 2015 for its original tune, Dance Tonight, a song that stayed on the Beach Music Smokin’ 45 chart for 22 straight weeks and for which Gerald Robinson also won Song Writer of the Year. That same year, the band was awarded with the Rising Star award by the Carolinas Beach Music Association. The group followed it up in 2016 by being named Group of the Year by the same organization. Playing all over the East Coast, the band regularly has songs like Love Without Mercy and Local Girls that keep them on the Beach Music Smokin’ 45 chart.

“Where Blackwater Rhythm & Blues will be performing is a grassy area, and we encourage folks to bring a blanket and enjoy a picnic while listening to the bands,” Bridgers offered.

Blackwater Rhythm & Blues will perform on the outdoor stage.

Another new addition to this year’s festival is the Food Truck Roundup, the brainchild of Bridgers’ daughter.

“Kayla has done an amazing job, and we’ve gotten a dozen or more food vendors coming for the Food Truck Roundup,” said Bridgers.

In addition to all the food vendors, other vendors — with goods ranging from wreaths and home decor to Elvis memorabilia and coin collection — will have items on site for guests to peruse. Businesses, civic groups, and elected officials will be on hand as well. Bridgers said more than 130 vendors will be on site, a first for the Grape Festival.

“We’ve been blown away by the response,” Bridgers remarked.

Some folks look forward all year to the community yard sale, fondly called the “Super Yard Sale” by attendees. Anyone from the community is welcome to bring items to sell and, in a unique gesture, Lu Mil doesn’t charge for the space. Bridgers said between 50 and 70 families or groups usually offer good values.

Setup for the yard sale, as well as for everyone else, begins at 6 a.m., and the yard sale begins at 8 a.m. With the exception of food, space is still available for other vendors or yard sale registrants. Applications can be obtained by inquiring on Lu Mil’s Facebook page.

A highlight every year is the grape stomping competition, which requires participants to leap into vats filled with grapes and try to crush grapes with their bare feet. After participants squeeze as much juice as they can through a small hole in the bottom of the vat in a set amount of time, the juice is weighed,and the winner takes home a cash prize. Prizes are awarded in both children’s and adult’s competitions.

Registration for the grape stomping competition begins at 9:30 a.m., and the competition starts at 10 a.m.

For $1 per pound plus $1 per person, guests can pick their own grapes to take home for jams, jellies, beverages, or just eating.

An antique tractor display, bounce houses, and face painting will round out the day’s activities, and the gift shop will be open all day.

“Please bring a chair or blanket and plan to spend the day with us,” Bridgers remarked.

Anyone needing additional information or assistance during the festival may call 910-866-5819. The N.C. Grape Festival will take place Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Lu Mil is located at 438 Suggs-Taylor Road in Dublin.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing

Chrysta Carroll

Bladen Journal