Enthusiastic Crowds Return To FAMU Grape Harvest Festival

August 24, 2022
FAMU Grape Harvest Festival
Enthusiastic Crowds Return To FAMU Grape Harvest Festival

The Florida A&M University Grape Harvest Festival returned on Saturday, August 20, as hundreds converged on the FAMU Center for Viticulture and Small Fruit Research to sample grapes, enjoy a wine and cheese tasting, pick grapes and other fun activities. 

The event kicked off with a 3K walk followed by trailer rides through the 45-acre vineyard. Activities included water slides, a grape throwing competition, a hula hoop competition, live entertainment, a health fair, and dozens of community exhibitors and vendors.

Mrs. Robinson & President RobinsonSharon Robinson and President Robinson at the 20th Grape Harvest Festival.

During the opening ceremony, President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., praised the groundbreaking research on grapes and small fruit at the Center for Viticulture. Robinson said the facility is also home to a COVID-19 testing lab funded by the Gates Foundation and Thermo Fisher Scientific. 

First Lady Sharon Robinson, honorary chair of the Grape Harvest Festival Committee, was effusive in her praise of the annual outing.

“It’s an exciting event. We look forward to coming to the Center every year,” she said. “There is an opportunity for the community to see the research that is being done here, and they are being exposed to the products that come from the muscadine grapes.”

The FAMU Center for Viticulture and Small Fruit Research is recognized internationally for excellence in warm climate grape research and for facilitating outstanding academic programs for experiential learning and student training. Founded in 1978 by an act of the Florida Legislature, the Center is the only specialized research program among the 1890 land-grant colleges and universities dedicated to grapes and wine. It is a national leader in muscadine grape research.

By the U.S. Department of Agriculture charter, the FAMU/Viticulture Center maintains the world’s most extensive muscadine grape germplasm collection. It serves as one of the five National Clean Plant Centers for Grapes. 

Capitalizing on the close industry-clientele partnership, the economically feasible and accelerated breeding pipeline has allowed only within the last two years to release three new patented American native grape cultivars: ‘Floriana,’ ‘Florida Onyx’ and ‘Blanc du Soleil.’ Viticulture scientists have also focused on the anti-toxins in muscadine grapes.

This year’s event was the first time the festival was held since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Festival attendees ventured into the vineyard to pick grapes during the afternoon session before the summer showers arrived.

Grape Harvest Festival trailer rideThe vineyard trailer ride is a popular activity at the Grape Harvest Festival.

Center Director Violeta Tsolova, Ph.D., said this year’s festival attracted more than 1200 people, including students and community members.

“It was absolutely successful, given the conditions with the medical restrictions,” Tsolova said. The popular wine stomping contest was not held this year out of concern for the monkey pox virus. 

“Things went very smoothly,” she said. “The wine workshops had full two sessions.”