SILVER CREEK - The 44th annual Festival of Grapes opened with a stomp.
The opening ceremony of the Festival of Grapes Thursday drew a large crowd around the stage in the village park which already held many vendors booths for the coming days.
Emcees Brian Boedo and Pastor Rob Sheldon's announcement of the Grand Marshal of this year's parade came first and wife of the late Richard Crino, Sally Crino, thanked the committee for honoring her husband's memory.
Baby contest winners were next, awarding Jayden Balestrieri and Alexis Wicks this year's titles.
T-shirt design winners were also announced, but because the competition was so close this year, four winners took home their designs on a shirt. Winners were Rachel Levitt, Ed Gallivan, Courtney Domst and Brandi Olson.
Grape grower of the year was also announced as James Millitello. Millitello along with Festival of Grapes Pageant, Little Miss Mackenzie Quinn, Junior Miss Samantha Hemenger and Miss Hailey Gonzalez, and pentathalon winners, Andrew Piccolo, Jonah Fox and Connor Czekanski, were invited to the event everyone was waiting for - the grape stomp.
OBSERVER Photos by Nicole Gugino
The Festival of Grapes kicked off with the popular grape stomp. Pageant winners Little Miss Mackenzie Quinn, Junior Miss Samantha Hemenger and Miss Hailey Gonzalez were the first to stomp.
Before the grape stomp began there was a K-9 presentation from the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Department.
The eight heats of feverish grape stomping began with Festival of grapes pageant winners. Miss Festival of Grapes Hailey Gonzalez took the top spot in this heat.
Next the pentathalon winners took to the barrels, bringing a win for Connor Czekanski and his purple mohawk.
Grape farmers took the stage next, the winner of which, Jerry Cross, went barefoot.
Members of the Silver Creek EMS, Fire and Police departments were next to stomp in memory of the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11. During this heat a boot was passed around and the proceeds when to the three agencies.
Festival mascots from the Eden Corn Festival, Evangola Tomato Festival and Silver Creek's own Festival of Grapes battled it out next. The crowd's cheers fueled Mr. Grape to a fast victory.
Local pastors took the stage before the random audience members were selected. Audience members Kathy Boedo, PJ Heil and Emma Romanik were selected out of the hat to take a go at the barrel.
Third grader Emma Romanik, who was also randomly selected last year, said it was easier this time around. Emma was prepared having worn her rain boots but the other two contestants were not and decided to go barefoot.
The grape stomp ended with Silver Creek School principals. Even though Elementary School Principal Scott Rudnicki got the most cheers from his students it was Middle School Principal Julie Schwab who came in first.
The grape stomp ended to cheers and many purple stained sneakers and feet. Boedo and Pastor Sheldon thanked the Festival of Grapes Committee for their work and local grape farmers for donating grapes to make the grape stomp possible.
For all the youngsters who didn't get to stomp, there will be a free grape stomp for children and young adults in the First Baptist Church's parking lot Saturday at 11 a.m.
The festival continues through Sunday.