2013 Weinfest celebrates 50 years of grape stomping

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 173 views 

The 50th Annual Weinfest at Wiederkehr Village started early on Saturday (Oct. 12) morning with guests beginning to tour the grounds as early as 8:30 a.m. with Dennis Wiederkehr announcing the events for the day.

For the early birds who arrived Friday evening, the Weinkeller and Swiss Family Bistro was open as usual. They were also treated to an early bird concert by Lance Carpenter’s Nashville Band.

The Tyrolean festivities began early in the day with tours of the historical wine cellars at 8:30 a.m., starting in the midst of the festivities and ending in the wine tasting room. One could partake in a carriage ride or on one of the open trams to tour the vineyard. Guests also browsed the many arts and crafts booths that were set up.

Throughout the day, the traditional contests were also underway including the Stein Stemmen (stone toss), wine barrel rolling or the Baum Stossen (log toss) contest, and the grape stomping, which are always popular among the patrons.

The concessions served traditional food such as Quiche Lorraine, Old World Potato Soup, Smoked Bratwurst with Sauerkraut, and traditional delicacies. The Waterloo German Band performed for the audience throughout the day. The famous Weinkeller Restaurant was also open for lunch and dinner with patio dining.

The Wiederkehr family has a long history in Altus, Ark. In 1880, Johann Andreas Wiederkehr and his family immigrated to Altus from Switzerland. Upon arrival, Johann carved a wine cellar from a hillside that is on the National Register of Historic Places and was converted into the Weinkeller Restaurant.

The family first made wine for medicinal purposes. The family has devoted more than 125 years to American winemaking with many wines made from grape varieties. The family is now in their 5th generation of Wiederkehr’s working at the vineyard. Dennis Wiederkehr believes the success is because “tradition and it’s the real thing.” There are 50 different varieties of wine produced. The Wiederkehr’s have 30 entries in the state fair winery competition being held on Sunday.

“This year with our 50th anniversary, we tried to make it a bigger event and we have more arts and crafts this year as well,” said Dennis Wiederkehr.

Henry Wilkerson and Harvey Marcum have been coming to the Weinfest for the past three years. Wilkerson first saw the advertisement for the event three years ago while doing business in Fort Smith and decided to come and they have been coming ever since. They come with a group of friends and park in the RV section of the parking lot. It is a five-hour drive for them from Tennessee. They come to have fun and drink with friends. There are four couples and two singles who make the drive.

Cathy Roberts with her group of buddies – who wore purple shirts with “Winfest” written on them – have been coming to the Weinfest for the past several years. Each year, they have personalized shirts made. This year, the shirts were purple. Last year, the shirts were red. “Winfest” on the shirts are intentional because they plan to win the contests that guests may enter.

To end the festivities, the Weinkeller catered the Weinfest Banquet where they served the famous spaghetti and Back Hendel Vienna (a chicken specialty) with salad and bread.