story and photos by Jeremy Donnell
The 49th Annual Wiederkehr Wine festival in Wiederkehr Village, just outside of Altus, was delivered by Dennis and Al Wiederkehr who used microphones to announce exactly what was going on, when it was happening and where you needed to be.
The day began with a reenactment from Son’s and Daughters of the Wild West. The skit was about a guy drunk on wine shooting a bird that falls on a woman and ruins her clothes. In the end a guy defending the woman starts a gun fight and everyone but the drunk dies.
Music and the clanking of beer bottles could soon be heard from inside the dining tent just next door. The Waterloo German band performed many musical numbers. Several of these were from the musical Sound of Music, including “Do-re-mi,” “So Long Farewell,” and “My Favorite Things.”
Next and throughout the day was the grape stomping contest. Four large barrels were set up filled with grapes and a person in each had to stomp on them to create juice that ran out a hole in the front of the barrel. Each contender had an assistant who could reposition the grapes but not smash them. After 60 seconds the person with the most juice was declared the winner.
At noon was the ceremonial cutting of the grape vine (instead of a ribbon) to officially start the festival. Father David Bellinghause blessed the wines and Ozark Mayor Carol Sneath talked to the crowd.
The CEO of Wiederkehr Cellars Al Wiederkehr was on stage to talk history. He said Wiederkehr has been around since 1880 when Johann Andreas Wiederkehr moved to Altus from Switzerland. Johann used the noblest grapes to pioneer the wine industry. Wiederkehr Wine Cellars is U.S. Bonded Winery Number 8. From these humble beginnings, the winery has remained a family operation with third and fourth generation members dedicated to producing only the finest wines available, he said.
Through careful and quality actions plus some excellent soil and many multi climates, Wiederkehr makes fine wines that please the palate, according to the Wiederkehr literature. Their philosophy is simple; the best grapes make the best wines.
Shortly after the opening ceremony several yells could be mistaken for pain but it was actually men and women competing in the rock throwing contest. There were separate categories for the men and women and the rocks were heavy for both. Several guys picked up the technique of running, yelling, then jumping as they threw their rock as far as they could. After that, the Weinfest Queen was crowned.
Around 1 p.m., Andy Fox could be heard playing Finger Blues at the outside diner patio.
Similar to the rock toss a log toss started up with a category for men and women. In between these events the Son’s and Daughters of the Wild West did their skit, several grape stomping competitions took place, and the Waterloo German band was always singing. People could also ride horse back, ride in a carriage, or take a tram around the vineyard. For the children there were pony and camel rides.
As the day progressed more events popped up including a barrel race, dog show, alpine horn competition, state grape stomp competition, conga line, and alpine sports championship.