SILVER CREEK - Some are born "grape" and others are destined to stomp upon them. Thursday was their night as the 45th annual Silver Creek Festival of Grapes Grape Stomp was held.
The event brought a huge crowd to see which of three competitors could stomp the fastest.
"I think this may be the biggest crowd we've had for the grape stomp in all 45 years of the Festival of Grapes," Festival of Grapes Committee Chairman Brian Boedo said.
OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino
Grape stomp competitors Tina LaFalce (right), Julie Decker (center) and Payton Azzarella were randomly drawn from a hat for their chance to stomp Thursday at the opening ceremony of the Silver Creek Festival of Grapes. LaFalce won the round.
Back by popular demand this year was the random drawing of audience members for a special round of stomping. This year's winners were Julie Decker, 6, Payton Azzarella, 7, and Tina LaFalce, who had a very festive purple hat covered in grapes.
LaFalce won the round but all competitors received the prize of a bag of popcorn and the unique experience of stomping a barrel of grapes.
Other heats included the pageant winners and the pentathlon winners. Junior Miss Emma Rice won her round and first runner up Jonah Fox won his round, both with similar strategies to stomp as fast as possible.
Other stompers included a historical society round with Silver Creek Historian Dave Voigt competing against Chautauqua County Historian Michelle Henry and Panama Historian Pam Brown. Voigt took second place behind Brown who twisted and stomped her way to victory.
Also stomping this year were members from That '70s Reunion which is also meeting this weekend in a huge reunion of Silver Creek 1970s High School classes. Emcee Pastor Robert Sheldon joked the round "would go down in the history books."
Gina V and her band performed for the crowd before the grape stomp began and then took to stomping her self against Gina Hallmark and a last-minute audience member, Faith S.
However the loudest cheers were for the heat with Silver Creek Elementary School Principal Scott Rudnicki, Middle School Principal Paula Troutman and Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich.
Rudnicki seemed to the the crowd favorite with his students cheering in the front row but it was new Middle School Principal Paula Troutman who took home the victory. At Wednesday's Silver Creek Board of Education meeting she said her strategy was to wear her husband's farm boots - which paid off and got her a huge cheer from the crowd.
Boedo thanked the grape farmers who donated grapes and made the event possible. He also thanked those who helped to fill the barrels, the fire department for the cleanup after and to all who make the festival possible.
In addition to the grape stomp winners of the pageant, pentathlon and contests were announced. Miss Katelyn Whitford, Jr. Miss Emma Rice and Little Miss Abigail Rice were named the pageant winners.
Joseph Bowers was named the pentathlon winner and the crown and vest that goes with the title was pasted on from last year's winner, Andrew Piccolo. Jonah Fox was named first runner up and Gabriel Metzger was named second runner up.
Baby winners were named Hunter Tampio and Bailey Jenelle Griewisch. There were 19 entries in this year's contest, including 2 sets of identical twins. Boedo said because all babies are beautiful, all are winners and photos of the contestants will be on display at the Festival of Grapes headquarters in the Pennysaver building.
Dennis Galivan won the contest for the booklet graphic and Tucker Antecki and Tyler Steklasa won the T-shirt contest.
Jim Vetter was named Grape Grower of the Year and Jim White was named grand marshal of the parade. Sheldon said the selection was made for both of the positions for their generous support of the Festival of Grapes.
The Festival of Grapes continues today with a Fireman's Hose Race at 6 p.m. on Jackson Street and many other family-friendly events throughout the day.
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