A local service group is bringing a tradition thousands of years old to Havre to benefit the hungry and to help bring students to the local university.
The Xi-Tau Chapter of the Beta Sigma Phi sorority, one of three of the sorority’s chapters in Havre, is holding a grape stomp at the Montana State University-Northern campus Aug. 20, with the proceeds to be split between the Havre Food Bank and a scholarship fund for Northern.
Chapter member June Hesser said that while she was at a business meeting in California, she and fellow Xi-Tau member Stacey Baldwin participated in a grape-stomping competition in Sonoma, in the middle of wine country.
“It was so fun, and we decided we’ve got to do this …, ” Hesser said. “We just thought we should try to do this with our Beta group. ”
Grape stomping, perhaps best known in the United States from an episode of the television series “I Love Lucy” from 1956, has a history going back at least 2,000 years.
In the process, people step into vats filled with grapes for winemaking, and stomp the grapes to break the fruit skins and press out the juice. This begins the fermentation process.
While the process is rarely used worldwide in actual winemaking in the modern era — and has been essentially legislated out of existence in the United States and many other countries — grape stomping is a popular event for entertainment, and often a tradition in winemaking regions.
For the Havre event, Hesser said, 10 teams of five people compete for five minutes per team, with the members rotating in as swabbers and stompers, to see which team can squeeze the most juice out of their grapes. Prizes will be awarded.
Hesser said the teams’ members are encouraged to dress up for the competition, and to have as much fun as they can.
She said almost all of the 10 teams had been filled by last week.
The entry fee from the teams will go to the fundraiser pot, along with proceeds from a silent auction that will include wine, wine baskets and other items.
Beer and wine also will be sold at the event, catered by 15 West, and Janis Flynn Pyrak donated cheese for free cheese and crackers for participants and audience members.
The whole community is invited to the free event, Hesser said, which will start at 2 p. m. on the lawn in front of the university’s Student Union Building.
She said, depending on how the event runs, the chapter might try to make the fundraiser a yearly event.