BY KAYLA ELDER
CLEVELAND — Labor Day weekend, a time for recognizing the American worker, was celebrated traditionally Saturday with a good old-fashioned grape stomping at Yonah Mountain Vineyards.
Crush Fest 2017 filled Cleveland with a crowd of more than 5,000. Held since 2010, this event draws young and old from across the Southeast.
“This is right around harvest time, we are getting ready for our grapes to get riper; we will pick in two weeks. It is an atmosphere of celebrating,” vineyard owner Bob Miller said.
The daylong festival featured live music, food trucks, an artisan market, wine tastings and a chance for guests to participate in the signature event: barefoot grape stomping.
Crushing the grapes is accompanied by live music from the Millers, with Bob on accordion and wife Jane on guitar.
“Many people, this is on their bucket list, to stomp grapes barefooted. We have thousands of people that want to jump in the tub and stomp grapes. It has become a tradition,” Bob Miller said.
General Manager Eric Miller said what started with “one little barrel is now two giant barrels that can fit about 20 people each.”
Yonah Mountain Vineyards’ wine tastings were enjoyed throughout the day. Every guest of age could sample four 3-ounce tastings from a selection of eight wines and a take-home souvenir wine glass.
“Eight years ago when we started, we were a very tiny winery and we thought we would have a small party around the same time as harvest,” Eric Miller said. “The first year we thought it was going to be a tiny festival, but we had 1,000 people show up.”
Each year, Eric Miller said, the winery and festival kept growing and they continued to add features.
“We are at the eighth annual and the features have gotten pretty big. We started the winery in 2007 … for the first several years we were focusing on having the best wine in the world with the best ingredients and ultimately the best product before we started doing festivals and weddings,” he said.
Artisans set up shop with a variety of wares including fine art, jewelry and specialty items such as jellies, blankets and home décor.
“This is the biggest music and wine festival in North Georgia. Last year we made a huge leap from the year before from 3,000 to 5,000,” Eric Miller said.
Several vendors returned this year including Lazy Goat Produce for a fourth year and Honey on the Hill for its third year.
“We love it,” said Tiffany White, owner of Lazy Goat Produce. “There are great crowds here that come from all over.”
Dale Fisher, owner of Honey on the Hill, shared similar sentiments.
“This has been growing every year and it is such a wonderful event with great people that come out here. We sell a lot of product,” he said.
Eric Miller said the event was host to 12 bands, helicopter rides and 15 Atlanta Food Trucks this year.
“We want our vendors to have things they actually make and create,” he said. “We have about 60 percent returning artists with all of the food trucks returning, plus more.”
As they shopped and ate from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., attendees enjoyed live musical performances from more than 10 regional and national artists, including the Crush Fest Drumline and the Atlanta Pipe Band.