A grape blessing

Concords celebrated at discovery center service

OBSERVER Photo by Tonja Dodd Rev. Virginia Carr blesses the grapes at the fourth annual Blessing of the Grapes in Westfield, Saturday. The event took place at the Grape Discovery Center, along with the Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association’s 13th anniversary celebration.

WESTFIELD — Reverend Virginia Carr proclaimed, “Grapes call us back to the earth … and bring us into community, making us work together. … And we celebrate with wine and grape juice … bringing us back together into community,” in her delivery of a service of thanksgiving and blessing for the 2017 grape harvest.

Carr recited Psalm 100 and excerpts from Deuteronomy Chapter 26 while a small gathering of community members joined in the service at the Grape Discovery Center’s Steve Baran Memorial Patio in Westfield, Saturday.

The attendees joined Carr in giving thanks to God for the “fruits of the earth.”

More prayers were given up in thanksgiving and request for wisdom and reverence for all in the grape industry, including farmers, workers, processing plants, transportation, marketing, educators and researchers.

In closing, Reverend Carr literally blessed the grapes surrounding the patio with holy water, symbolizing a blessing for all grapes and the industry in the region. Attendees were then invited to look for Westfield Rocks, grape-inspired painted stones throughout the Grape Discovery Center grounds.

OBSERVER Photo by Tonja Dodd Brenda Peterson of Dunkirk finds a Westfield Rocks grape-inspired painted rock at the “Blessing of the Grapes” Saturday, September 23 at the Grape Discovery Center in Westfield.

Brenda Peterson was one of the fortunate ones to find a hidden rock. She and her husband, Roger from Dunkirk, heard about the event and were curious to learn more, taking advantage of the hot September day to drive along the lake. Mrs. Peterson has fond memories of tying grapes in her grandmother’s fields as a child. She has always felt close to the grape industry and was thrilled to find and keep a painted rock memento.

The party moved indoors to celebrate the 13th anniversary of the Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association with Concord grape-filled cake, iced tea and grape juice.

The Grape Discovery Center is located in the heart of grape country at 8305 West Main Road, Route 20, Westfield. The Concord Grape Belt Heritage Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization of grape growers, juice processors and wineries, related grape industry businesses and regional organizations. Its mission is to encourage and support the grape and wine industries within the region, and to enhance the region’s quality of life. In May 2013, the Grape Discovery Center was opened by the Heritage Association as a showcase for local grape-related products, and as a venue for sharing the rich history and culture of the region.

Many local and out-of-town patrons found much to explore at the Grape Discovery Center.

Brittany Baker and Ryan Lombardi traveled from Johnstown, Pa. to the Grape Discovery Center as part of a stop while touring the local wineries, in search of the perfect Niagara wine. The couple raved about their weekend stay at the Hamilton Mansion in Ripley and found the grape juice, cake and Grape Discovery Center a delightful surprise as well.

Local grape farmer, Judy Hitz was present and stated that the hot September days are good for the grapes and will likely help farmers reach the 16 Brix targeted sugar content in the Concord grape. Hitz went on to say, this target is optimal in making Concord grape juice, while some companies may pay growers a premium for even higher Brix.

Concord grape juice lovers Bill King and Nancy Meiler came from Rochester to experience the Grape Discovery Center in search of more knowledge about the industry — and they certainly found it, among many other discoveries.