The pressure of competition was squeezing out the best of these three politicians.
At Saturday’s Mayor’s Invitational Grape Stomp, Niagara Region Chair Gary Burroughs, Port Colborne Mayor Vance Badawey and Thorold Counc. Sergio Paone all earned a berth to the finals.
The three previously reigned supreme in their heats inside Montebello Park in St. Catharines.
In the event hosted by St. Catharines Jaycees, contestants are given one minute to power-stomp a barrel of grapes into as much juice as they can muster.
As the three men lined up before the park crowd, emcee and radio broadcaster Tim Denis set the tone.
“This is for all the marbles,” Denis said. “This is for bragging rights for the whole year.”
At that, the trio dissolved into a flurry of knee raises, their technique generally consisting of squishing the fruit on the side that drains the juice from a spigot.
“They’ve been closely watching all those who’ve been doing well at this so far,” Denis observed as he jumped away from sideways-spitting grape goo.
While Paone took the appearance of a human mix-master, it was Burroughs’s deliberate approach that pulped the competition.
The regional leader’s purple product topped a beaker — one of the best of the Niagara Wine Festival competition.
Burroughs also gave the concoction a celebratory sip, generating a few “eeuws” from the crowd.
“I was not coming to win, let’s put it that way,” said Burroughs, a first-time winner, in an interview afterward. “He described the technique as a ‘little bit of crush followed by a straight push.”
Burroughs adds he’s had no hands-on or feet-on grape-growing experience, but “I drive by vineyards almost every day.”
As for his foot-crushing prowess: “I’m enjoying my job at the Region and that’s why I’m feeling so good.”
The Festival continues through until Sunday, Sept 30. For event information, visit www.niagarawinefestival.com