What started as a family gathering has now become an annual staple for WoodMill Winery, drawing in thousands from across the state.
The Vale facility, also the county’s only agricultural-based winery, will host its popular Grape Stomp Festival on Saturday and Sunday.
While summer flooding has washed away several local roadways, including Beam Lumber Road, which intersects the roadway the winery sits on, owner Larry Cagle hoped residents wouldn’t be deterred from attending the festival.
He said access to WoodMill has not been blocked and that a road barricade sits past the entrance.
The much-anticipated festival commenced in 2006, the same year the winery which Cagle designed and built opened to the public. Initially a family activity for nearly 100 Cagle family members, grape stomping has now been deemed a Lincoln County summer highlight.
“We had fun,” Cagle said. “It was entertainment for us.”
He laughed as he reminisced about putting his daughter into one of the grape vats that first year.
The following summer, WoodMill opened up the event to the public. It was an immediate hit.
“We want our local neighbors to have something special,” Cagle said.
The grape stomp, which witnessed more than 280 participants last year between two days, is a prize-winning activity with certificates awarded in three categories, “Little Stomper,” “Teen Stomper” and “Big Stomper.”
Cagle said victory is all about entertaining the crowd.
“Whatever you can do to impress the judges,” he said. “Some people just get in there and dance.”
Those who wish to participate in the stomp must sign up daily by 2 p.m., an hour before the event starts.
In addition to grape stomping, the festival will offer numerous children’s activities including face painting, bounce houses, mini-golf, a petting zoo and gem mining as well as more adult forms of entertainment such as wine tours and wine tastings.
With 21 different wines available, WoodMill produces each unique vintage using locally-grown blueberries and blackberries. Cagle said each wine is additionally comprised of muscadine and scuppernong grapes.
While he never expected the festival to reach such grandiosity, he could not be happier having a business to call his own.
“It belongs to me,” he said.
Cagle’s career move from research engineer at a nuclear power industry to business owner was the fulfillment of a life-long dream.
He had grown tired of daily contributing to someone else’s gain and wanted to work for himself, reaping the harvest of his own hands.
In addition to uniting the community and offering family fun, the festival is a place where local nonprofits can benefit. Boy Scout troops, breast cancer awareness group “Save the Ta-Tas,” the Lincolnton Lions Club and Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Explorer Post 700 will be on hand with various informational items and purchase items. Cagle said the festival allows the groups to generate sizable sums.
“We make sure they’re successful,” he said.
The Grape Stomp Festival will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 12-5 p.m. Sunday. WoodMill Winery is located at 1506 John Beam Road in Vale. For more information, call (704) 276-9911.