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The Story of Festival of the Grape

Fall Festival Weekend, including Oliver’s signature events Cask & Keg and Festival of the Grape (FOG), is fast approaching and we are more excited than ever to bring the festive energy back to the South Okanagan for the first time since 2019!

Whether you are a wine lover, beer drinker, cider enthusiast, or spirit sipper, Oliver will be the place to be from Friday, September 30th to Sunday, October 2nd as we celebrate the bounty of our thriving valley and all the passionate beverage producers we have here in BC!

Annually, Festival of the Grape attracts over 4000 attendees who come to celebrate and sip at the Okanagan’s biggest wine and beverage tasting finale of the season.

“It’s the 25th anniversary of the first FOG,” said Kenn Oldfield, the co-founder, along with Sandra Oldfield, of Tinhorn Creek Winery.

We are expecting this year’s festival to be the biggest one yet with three days of fun, beverage tastings, food truck favs, live music, races, and more.

How Festival of the Grape Started

Kenn Oldfield, along with Sally and Paul Bouchard of Lakeside Resort, sat on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors in 1996 and were brainstorming ways to raise funds to supplement the operation of the Oliver Tourism Visitor Centre.

“Sandra, myself, and Paul went out to dinner and talked about ‘Well, what kind of thing could we do?’,” said Oldfield. “Something that involves the wineries because of course that’s a draw.”

Over dinner and a few brainstorming sessions afterward, the team came up with a skeleton for the festival. They recruited an organizing committee and a huge number of volunteers to get the first Festival of the Grape off the ground.

“The first year we had about 1300 attendees,” said Oldfield. “It was successful. The community liked that it was family-friendly and was daytime and outdoor. It was a country fall fair blended with ‘Fest of Ales’.”

The Fest of Ales was established the same year.

Expansion of a Popular Festival

At the time, Oliver and Osoyoos had 13 thriving wineries. Today, including small batch wineries operating out of District Wine Village, Oliver alone has over 50. The Oliver Valley is also home to nearly half of BC’s grapevines.

During the first five years, with the success of the first FOG, the festival grew from approximately 1300 attendees to 3500.

Efficiencies were improved upon, and the Cask & Keg Festival was added expanding Festival of the Grape to a two-day Fall Festival Weekend.

“It spread the cost of rentals over more events,” explained Oldfield. “If you’re doing all that work to set up, you may as well use it twice rather than once.”

A Three-Day Festival

Now, Fall Festival Weekend is expanding to a full-on three-day event including a Kick-Off Party at District Wine Village with The Trews on Friday, September 30th.

Other musical artists including Brent Tyler and Joel Nolan will rock the festival grounds on Saturday at Cask & Keg followed by Cease and Desist on Sunday at Festival of the Grape.

Wineries from all over the Okanagan and BC will be sharing and pouring their best wines. Food Truck Jam will be dishing out some scrumptious fan favourites. Kid Zone will be brimming with activity and laughter. The Fall Art Show and Sale will be displaying local masterpieces. Merchant Market will be bustling with artisans showcasing their wares and shoppers. Lots is happening!

Exciting Festival Events

Fall Festival Weekend promises a whole lot of fun and camaraderie whether you are decked out in outrageously creative garb and competing in races or cheering and “cheersing” on your favourite teams.

The outrageously fun and ever-popular Grape Stomp Competition (this year brought to you by Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country and made famous by Rick Mercer) requires teams to squish as many grapes as they can into juice with their toes.

The Beer Olympics (sponsored by Firehall Brewery) challenges competitors to a series of beer-related tasks including racing around tables with a tray full of beers. The key to winning is don’t spill or you go back to the start!

The Amazing Oliver Race sends creatively outfitted teams racing all over Oliver looking for clues. The camaraderie is infectious and electric!

Fall Festival Transport

Getting to and from the festival grounds to your accommodations will be easy and fun in Grape Savvy Wine Tours retro-style trolleys. Check these out!

Be at the Epicenter!

The Oliver Valley will be jam-packed with excitement during Fall Festival Weekend so if you plan to come, get crackin’ on accommodations! While there are many places to stay between Kelowna and Osoyoos, if you want to be at the epicenter of all the action right here in Oliver it’s best to secure your accommodations now.

Oliver and the South Okanagan is a thriving region full of passionate winemakers and beverage producers. We’re expecting this year’s three-day festival to be sizzling with energy as people come from near and far to celebrate the best of BC wines, brews, and spirits, here in Oliver for the first time since 2019.

A Small-Town Fall Fair On Steroids!

You don’t want to miss this one. As Kenn Oldfield says, “Come to experience the feel of a small town fall fair but on steroids. It’s a bigger event than any other event in the fall wine festival.”

For ticket information, visit events.visitoliver.com.

Tania is a local marketing professional and branding and event photographer. Visit her at @tvtourismphotography on Facebook and Instagram or online at tevweb.com.