The annual Grape Day festival will occur Saturday, September 12 in downtown Escondido and Grape Day Park.
The festival includes the city’s five Rotary clubs, a 5K walk/run, and an old-fashioned downtown parade. Several thousand people are expected to attend.
Grape Day started in 1908 as a way to celebrate Escondido’s grape harvest and promote the city. Before Prohibition shut down legal alcohol production in the United States for 13 years, Escondido was one of the centers of grape and wine production in California.
Escondido’s grape history dates to the early 1880s, when a group of landowners planted a large vineyard of Muscat grapes. By the 1920s, thousands of acres of grapes were being grown in Escondido. Tourists frequently stop by the museum that is located on the park, the Escondido History Center, and ask how the park got its name. So now you know.
The Grape Day festival continued until 1950, with several years missed due to World War II. In the intervening years there were several abortive attempts to revive it until the Escondido History Center revived the event in 1996.
Grape Day is put on by the Escondido History Center. The first Grape Day occurred on September 9, 1908. It celebrated the supposed fact that Escondido’s Muscat grapes were the “sweetest in California.” It included the crowning of a queen and king.
Grape Day was a huge event in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, with trains bringing people north from San Diego for the event. It was second in size only to Pasadena’s Rose Parade.
Schedule of Events
Escondido Sunrise Rotary Grape Day 5K
Time: 7:30 a.m.
This 5K fun run is for everyone from elite runners to casual walkers. For more information and to register go towww.sandyfeetevents.com/grapeday 5k/
Grape Day Parade Along Grand Avenue in Downtown Escondido
Time: 9:30 a.m. The parade features marching bands, walking groups, equestrians and historic automobiles. The parade route follows Grand Avenue from Escondido Boulevard to Juniper and then returns in the opposite direction.
Grape Day Festival, Grape Day Park
Time: 9:30 a.m.–4 p.m.
The Grape Day Festival includes live entertainment, kids’ activities, grape stomping, and fun for the whole family. There will be arts and crafts vendors, commercial and non-profit activities, and don’t forget to drop by the barn to see some blacksmithing. You will also be able to view the 1917 truck once owned by Rube Nelson, who owned Nelson’s Country Corner for many years.,
The food court will include gourmet dogs, Mexican cuisine, barbecue and Chinese delicacies. In keeping with a long-standing tradition, there will be free grapes, donated by Major Market, beginning at 11 a.m.
Another longtime tradition is the grape stomp, with a vat borrowed from Bernardo Winery. Nothing says getting down and getting primal like jumping into a vat of grapes and getting the juice and pulp between your toes.
New this year are rides for the kids (elementary school age), including round-up and elephants (not real ones!). There will also be contests with prizes such as gunnysack races and hoola hoop contests. All of the prizes will be grape-related.
Live entertainment will be provided by a jazz ensemble from 10:30 a.m.— 11:30 a.m., with announcements from 11:30 a.m.–noon.
Beginning at noon ethnic dancers performing routines from around the world will entertain, including hula, folkloric and belly dancers. The dancers of Georgia School of Dance will be featured.
Each year a queen or king is chosen for the festival. This is an honor that dates back to the origins of the festival. The first queen was chosen in 1913. In keeping with that tradition, Jack Owens, longtime business owner, and volunteer will be the King this year.
Vendor spaces are available for $75 for a 10X10 space.
Most of the history center will be open, except for the office. The barn, which is only open a few days out of the year, will be open, and will be the location for the blacksmith demonstrations.