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Grape Day Festival is returning to Grape Day Park in September. Photo by Samantha Nelson
Grape Day Festival is returning to Grape Day Park in September. Photo by Samantha Nelson
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Grape Day Festival a celebration of Escondido’s history

ESCONDIDO — The city will step back in time and stomp on some grapes during the return of its oldest festival next month: Grape Day Festival.

The popular and historic festival returns on Sept. 10 at Grape Day Park to celebrate Escondido’s once-dominant agricultural industry.

Over the years, thousands of visitors traveled from all over Southern California to visit the town known for its sweet grapes and wine, making it second in popularity to Pasadena’s Festival of Roses. Historically, Escondido was known for growing muscat grapes — larger, darker and sweeter than other varieties.

Started in 1908, the festival ran until 1950. After several decades, the Escondido History Center hosted the event until 2018. The History Center, one of the main organizers of this year’s festival, is working alongside Brothers of 6, another charitable organization working to preserve history in the community.

“As an organization dedicated to preserving history and helping our community, we are excited to be partnering up with the Escondido History Center to revive the Grape Day Festival,” said Bill McNaughton, president of Brothers of 6. “We think it is important for younger generations to understand the historical significance of Escondido’s agricultural roots and have a bit of family fun at the same time.”

This year’s festival will take visitors back in time to experience what it was like to attend the event pre-1940s, with period-appropriate music and food production. Crafters will provide live demonstrations of spinning, weaving, corn shelling and grinding and butter churning to show how life was lived in the early 20th century.

“Grape Day is Escondido’s one-day history lesson as well as a fun time for the whole family,” said Robin Fox, director of the Escondido History Center. “And it’s free.”

While organizers are still securing some acts, the music will include everything from bluegrass to swing jazz to mariachi. Another symbolic gesture of the past is a hot air balloon that will be around the festival just like the original days.

Adult visitors will also get the chance to taste a variety of beer and wine from around San Diego County in the festival’s wine and beer garden. The family-friendly event offers plenty of activities for kids as well, including pony rides, a petting zoo, face-painting and more.

Grape Day Festival wouldn’t be complete without some grape stomping, something that the festival has always done, although this time it’ll be just for fun and not turned into wine like in the old days.

The festival will also have plenty of grapes for everyone to eat as well.

“There will be grapes everywhere,” McNaughton said.

As tradition goes, Grape Day Festival will take place in Grape Day Park on Sept. 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.