The wine-making business continues to make a comeback in Kansas and celebrities paid tribute to the ongoing effort to help grape growers flourish in the state with an event that has become a regular of the Kansas State Fair's opening Saturday.
The annual Celebrity Grape Stomp challenges well-known leaders in the state to show their stuff in stomping grapes and producing juice.
The event is low-tech. The grapes are poured into tubs, the celebrities take off their shoes and roll up their pant legs and wade right in. After each "heat" of 30-seconds of stomping, the amount of juice in each tub is strained and measured.
The two top stompers are then matched in a "stomp off" to determine the state champion of the year.
Grapes for the 2014 contest on Saturday, Sept. 6, were provided by the Mission Valley FFA.
There were ten total participants from the following organizations: Kansas State Fair FFA Board Members, Kansas FFA Advisors and Officers, 4H Youth Council, Wichita State University and Kansas State University student body presidents.
Styles of stomping included twisting, dancing, and jumping to smash the grapes. The two finalists were Kurt Dillon, a Kansas FFA Advisor and Keith Figge, Onaga FAA Chapter Advisor.
Figge took home the title smashing 76 ounces of juice from a 20-pound tub of grapes.
The annual Celebrity Grape Stomp is part of an on-ging Kansas Department of Agriculture effort to rekindle interest in an industry that thrived in Kansas in the days before Prohibition.
Vineyards flourished in eastern Kansas and western Missouri and the region led the nation in wine-making.
Hardy Midwestern grapes, resistant to many of the bacterial diseases that had come to plague European vineyards, were transported to Europe to use as graft rootstock to save the industry there in the mid to late 1800s.
As late as 1901, in spite of Prohibition, grape growing continued in Kansas. According the Department of Commerce records, Kansas had more than 5,000 acres of vineyards producing grapes for making wine.
Eventually, even though Prohibition ended, strict Kansas laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol remained in place and by the mid-1930s, the industry had all but died.
In 1985, the Kansas State Legislature decided to change that. The Farm Winery Act was passed in an effort to encourage the growing of grapes and making of wine in the state. By January of 2010, the state had 23 farm wineries in 23 counties and the industry continues to grow.