I’m a huge I Love Lucy fan. So when I learned that there was a Grape Stomp at the Swiss Wine Festival in Vevay, Indiana, I had to go.
Here was my chance to play Lucy. I’m referring to the episode of I Love Lucy where the Ricardos and Mertzes travel to Italy and Lucy is offered a part in an Italian film titled Bitter Grapes. Lucy being Lucy, she decides to do some research and finds a winery that still produces wine by stomping grapes. Lucy decides to “soak up a little local color” and pretends to work there. So she climbs into the vat of grapes with an angry Italian woman and begins to stomp. But Lucy and the other woman soon get into a fight and are slinging gobs of grapes at each other and wrestling in the vat of purple juice. Lucy arrives back at her hotel, splotchy and stained and too purple to be included in the film.
I was all set to re-enact as much of that episode as I could. First of all, I donned a peasant skirt and blouse like Lucy wore (so that she could blend in with the Italian women workers). I was even going to tuck my skirt up into my belt like Lucy and her co-worker did before they began to stomp grapes. But my experience in Indiana was a little different than Lucy’s, so I didn’t get to emulate as much as I’d hoped.
To begin with, the Vevay Grape Stomp was not composed of a large vat of grapes, but rather, four wooden buckets on a stage. That was okay. I didn’t really expect that we would all be standing in a vat. I also didn’t expect to look into the bucket and see brownish grape residue from the previous two days of the festival.
But then they added fresh grapes – green grapes, since those were local and were used to make local Indiana wines.
So I stepped into my tub of grapes and barely had a moment to register that it was cold and squishy before the music began. We had two minutes to stomp grapes while our “swabbers” worked to clear the screen inside the bucket that lead to a hose that directed the juice into a plastic pitcher below. My poor husband. He was my swabber. What that really meant was that he had the disgusting job of putting his hands into the grape goo I squashed and had his face near enough to the bucket of grapes that he was squirted with juice as I stomped and kicked my little heart out.
I had the grapes and I had my Lucy costume. Now all I needed was a good fight so that I could “soak up a little local color.” My mother was stomping in the bucket next to me. I considered giving her a little shove since she’d understand that I was just being Lucy, but when I looked over at her, she wasn’t stomping all that hard; she was dancing! She was stomping to the beat of the music instead of trying to get the most juice. I couldn’t pick a fight with her for that! For all I knew, she was throwing the competition so that I had a better chance of winning.
We (I) stomped for two minutes in front of a huge crowd of spectators. It was a little daunting to see them all watching so intently. Not cheering, but watching, with iphones recording the spectacle before them, and cameras out. I was very glad that I hadn’t tucked my skirt up into my waistband like Lucy had. I was already afraid that my performance was soon to be on Youtube.
The music ended and so did the competition. We gingerly stepped out of our slippery, slimy tubs and walked off the stage with grape-skinned feet. The festival was kind enough to provide a hose behind the tent so that we could wash our feet off as they measured the amounts of juice each swabber had collected. We put our shoes back on and walked back around to the stage. Low and behold, we discovered we’d won!
Lucy may have had purple-stained skin and hair to commemorate her grape stomping adventure, but we got t-shirts.
Have you stomped grapes? Would you? Or is there something else Lucy-like you’d rather do?