Thousands pour into Powhatan for wine festival

Members of the Powhatan High School Class of 1994, pictured together at Powhatan’s LOVE letters, reunited at the Festival of the Grape, held for the 17th year on Oct. 5 in Powhatan. See the full story and more photos inside on page 5A.

POWHATAN – Beautiful weather and a lively crowd characterized the 17th Annual Festival of the Grape held this past Saturday in the Powhatan Courthouse Historic District.

“The weather was absolutely perfect today,” said Ashley Ray, who manages the social media for the festival and on Saturday donned the costume of the event’s longtime mascot, Marilyn Merlot. “You can just feel it – people are very excited. There were lines at the gates – people waiting to get in.”

Not long after the festival began at 11 a.m., people were already three to four rows deep at the various winery tents that lined up and down Old Buckingham Road, eager to try wines from vineyards across the state of Virginia. Food, shopping, and music were also plentiful, and, after the festival brought in distilleries and a cidery for the first time last year, the event expanded again to include multiple cideries as well as more distilleries pouring drinks as part of the tasting tickets this year, Ray said.

Carol Grant Casting was also at the festival, seeking people interested in roles as background actors in the final two episodes of ‘The Good Lord Bird’ – an upcoming limited SHOWTIME series focusing on John Brown and his abolitionist soldiers, as well as on the raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. For people interested in acting in the show, they can visit and follow the signup links from there; they can also listen to the hotline number ((323)-390-9422), email or visit Carol Grant Casting on social media including Facebook and Twitter (@cgcasting).

Ray, who has been in charge of the festival’s social media for four years, said it was one the busiest years she’s seen.

“Our ticket sales are higher than the previous four years,” she said. “It’s a big year.”

Bill Bevins, the Master of Ceremonies since the very first festival – when it was held in the summertime – remembered that first one being so hot that, while he was standing of the stage, 90 percent of the people who were there – which weren’t many according to Bevins – were under the tree; there were also misting tents.

But from then to now – over the last 17 years – “it’s grown into this magnificent thing,” he said.

“I look forward to it every year,” Bevins said. “Everybody has such a great time, such a friendly environment. They’ve gone out of their way to make it friendly for everybody – family and everybody. It’s great!”

Reuniting at the Festival on its 25th anniversary was the Powhatan High School Class of 1994.

“It’s wonderful – we’ve had opportunity to come back home to a great extent, just a few miles – not even miles – from where we went to school,” said Class of ’94 alum Tanya Ross. “To be here and be able to spend time together in the county has just been awesome. It’s been a great opportunity on a beautiful day.”

Ross, who has attended the Festival in years past, said that it has “grown exponentially” from the number of vendors to the number of people.

“I tell people all the time: I think it’s one of the greatest events that Powhatan has ever put on,” Ross said.

The festival “reflects beautifully on the community,” Bevins said.

“Everybody’s so friendly, it’s so well-organized,” he said. “It’s a great party and everybody has a fantastic time in a good, safe, friendly environment…I just think Angie (Cabell) and the Chamber of Commerce deserves a huge, huge ‘Thank you.’ I also do the Village Vibe concerts, emcee those, and that kind of work that goes into that…I know the man hours and woman hours that go into it, and they do a great job. It works every time.”

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