City of Cedarburg — This weekend, thousands of people from across the Midwest will descend upon this city of about 11,000 to sample local wines and enjoy one of the last chances for outdoor fun before winter comes.
On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the streets of downtown Cedarburg will be packed with festival-goers enjoying food, wine from Cedar Creek Winery and family oriented activities.
"We just want people to come out and enjoy their day. It's a family friendly event,” said B.J. Homayouni, executive director of Festivals of Cedarburg Inc. “It's probably like the last hoorah of the year besides Octoberfest. They need to come out and enjoy themselves.”
Attendees can buy locally grown produce at the Columbia Avenue farmer's market and enjoy an art show presented by the Cedarburg Garden Club, Cedarburg Cultural Center, Cedarburg Art Museum, and Ozaukee Art Center along Washington Avenue, according to the festival's website. Several bands will play live music throughout the weekend.
Homayouni said the free festival has grown considerably since she began working for Festivals of Cedarburg a decade ago, and it now encompasses nearly the entire downtown section of the city.
“When I started working with it 10 years ago, I think the attendance was 30,000," she said, adding that about 70,000 people have attended the festival in recent years.
“We get a lot of people from Chicago, Minnesota, the surrounding states," Homayouni said. "It's like a pilgrimage for them to come up here and enjoy the festival.”
Two of the festival's biggest crowd pleasers are the pumpkin weigh-off, which hosts pumpkin farmers from around the Midwest vying for the heaviest pumpkin award, and the Giant Pumpkin Charity Regatta, where participants race down Cedar Creek in hollowed-out pumpkins to raise money for charity.
Last year, an Illinois farmer won the weigh-off with a pumpkin weighing 2,145.5 pounds, Homayouni said. The festival has other produce weighing contests, such as the one for zucchini, gourds and tomatoes.
“It's a really interesting contest. I think the largest tomato last year was 38 pounds,” Homayouni said. “It's these unique events, I think that's what brings a lot of people here.”
One of the things Homayouni and the other festival organizers try to do to keep the festival fresh each year is to rearrange booths and make the experience unique each year, she said. Each year, festival-goers will find a new layout.
The festival was started in 1972 by Cedar Creek Winery owner Jim Pape and his wife, Sandy. Sandy is an artist and the two thought pairing wine and art for a fall festival would work well in Cedarburg.
To find out more about the Wine & Harvest Festival and other festivals in Cedarburg, visit cedarburgfestival.org.