Hay bales sat around a small pond as people gathered to stomp grapes with their bare feet. Adults drank wine while children painted pumpkins and jumped in the bouncy house. Kettle corn was popping, and just a few feet away, a few men were playing acoustic folk and country music. 

Such were the scenes of this year's Crush Festival. 

The event was next to a hillside with neatly organized rows of grapevines. Les Bourgeois Vineyards has hosted the event for over two decades. This year, the festival was dedicated to the vineyard's founder, Curtis "Doc" Bourgeois, who died in September. Bourgeois opened the winery in the '70s, and it's become a big to-do in mid-Missouri.

To honor his memory, organizers set up a poster board so festival attendees could write messages about the founder or send condolences to the Bourgeois family. On Saturday evening, a toast was given in his honor. 

Christa Holtzclaw, marketing director for Les Bourgeois, has been in the Missouri wine business since 2013.

She said the ability to crush grapes with your feet is the main draw of Crush Fest.

Grape crushers stand in large wooden buckets filled with grapes and stomp, turning the grapes into a pulp. The pulp then leaves the bucket through a spigot and falls into a larger container. 

Nick Etter, who has worked in the cellar at the vineyard for about a year, sprayed the feet of grape crushers at the festival. He said the stomping was similar to the process used in wine production, but that the winery has big machines to press the grapes.

"Less feet involved in ours," Etter said. 

People of all ages stomped and sloshed, and several described the sensation as "squishy."

Grape crusher, Cooper Brown, 10, said the grapes were "cold at first."

Cooper's mom, Sheila, said that she and her three children attended the festival two years ago. 

"First year, they were a little weirded out," she said. 

This year's turnout was a little below average because of the possibility of rain, said Jacob Holman, who bought Les Bourgeois earlier this year with his wife, Rachel. This is the first festival under the new ownership.

Holman said this year's festival was similar to festivals in years past, but that this year's event featured more music.

During the two day festival, each day ended with a performance by bluegrass band Trout Steak Revival.

Taylor Rehmer and Amelia Gardiner crushed grapes side-by-side. They have been friends since fourth grade. Rehmer said they made a plan in seventh grade. When they turned 21, they were going to crush grapes at a "wineyard," as she described it in junior high.

"That was really satisfying," Gardiner said as she stepped down from the bucket. 

  • Public Life reporter, fall 2019 Studying magazine writing and economics Reach me at johh64@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5720

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