Courier Mail, The (Brisbane), 04/03/2006, pg. 5

STANTHORPE is in party mode for the biennial Apple and Grape Harvest Festival this weekend, marking 40 years since the first festival was held in 1966.

The town’s population of 4000 will swell to more than 70,000 as visitors and former Stanthorpe residents return for the Granite Belt’s biggest party of the year, celebrating the bounty of ripe fruits from local orchards and the gathering of the vintage from local vineyards.

Organisers are hoping wet weather forecast for the coast on the weekend will encourage visitors to escape the rain and head west for the festivities.

Today’s program includes a wine and food fiesta, mardi gras and grand parade in the main street and a crafters’ carnival and arts festival.

Fourteen local wineries will offer wine tasting and food stalls will provide Greek, German, Dutch and Italian delicacies.

The annual rodeo and celebrity grape crush begin at 4pm today and the evening will culminate with fireworks in the main street on the banks of Quartpot Creek.

A highlight of the festival will be guest performances by Japan’s Kinzan Cultural Drum Group today and tomorrow.

Stanthorpe’s sister city Shiwa has sponsored the Shiwa Drummers to perform as a gift to the people of Stanthorpe. The group comprises 17 drummers aged 16 to 78, performing in traditional costume.

Another packed day of activities tomorrow includes a multicultural music and food festival, market in the mountains and a thanksgiving service at the town’s civic centre at 7pm.

Festival president Wendy Shan said many visitors from Brisbane, northern NSW and the Sunshine and Gold Coasts returned to every festival, booking out local motels, which are already full for the 2008 festival.

Stanthorpe Tourist Information office said local B&B accommodation, self-contained cottages and or camp sites at nearby Girraween National Park were still available.

Visitors wanting accommodation for this weekend should phone the information office on 1800 060 877. For more information see the festival’s website on www.appleandgrape.org

Copyright 2006 / Courier Mail