The last time I attended the Altus Grape Festival was 18 years ago –give or take a year. I was working my way through graduate school, so I had many jobs to fit my graduate schedule. One such job was a waitress at a small pub in Altus Arkansas called Kelts. http://www.keltspubinfo.com/
So 18 years ago, I was slugging away on my afternoon shift on a Saturday with a small town festival going on outside. The pub had lost air conditioning and the highlight was a band of bag-pipers that came in late afternoon to play. On my break, I did a quick glance around the booths and there wasn’t much to see really: Homemade jewelry, crafts, flags, and foods. There was someone singing country music from the pavilion. The night is a bit different, because it centered around music and drinking….oh there is grape stomping as well. Usually the grape festival night life would sometimes make its way in the pub, so there was a small taste. Other grape fest goers who didn’t want the pub style would go away from the square to uh..a less refined space called The Dead Pecker’s Inn—themascot a woodpecker. Really.
Flash-forward to 2014, my husband and I decided to take the trek this past Saturday to Altus an hour and half south of us. The festival had grown in 18 years. It was still contained on the small square but there were more booths if you will, more crafts, more food vendors, but still country music crooning from the pavilion. The homemade jewelry had more booths than most and there were more leather wares being. The square had added a couple of monuments: Coal miners and Vets since I had been there. Both very nice…
I bought a glass of Post wine which was a dry table wine. http://www.postfamilie.com/
It was good red table wine. I had a nice buzz by 11:15 from one glass. We wander over to see if my old employer was still in business, and it was! They weren’t open, but I caught one of my old bosses, Jan, chatting with someone outside about opening time.
I waved, and she apologized that she had to set up. I remembered from 18 years ago, that grape festival nights were late-late and getting up the next morning to set up was harsh. Great crowds and tips, but it was a marathon. I’m sure it is still.
Now, what would make a good ending would be that we were able to back and eat at Kelts, but alas that would too neat. The time passed, and it was hot. They put on canned music at the pavilion, “Proud to be an Okie from Muskogee, thank you..” I turned to my husband and explained that this was played 18 years ago as well. A woman running a booth called me over and asked if I had ever tried White Lightin—you know moonshine. I told that I had a taste once but it was too strong for me. She said that it was being passed around last night and she was probably only sober one around. She warned me that none of it was good and don’t believe anyone that says otherwise. She went back to selling. I thanked her. Ah, Altus.
I had long finished my wine, and we were both ready to get out of the heat and eat. Kelts hadn’t opened yet and blood sugar was an issue. We took a last look around. My husband commented that he thought it would be bigger. I told him it was comparatively.
Looking around the square, it was hard to imagine that just weeks ago, we were walking around Tel Aviv. Such a different place and time it seemed. The world of Altus is so far removed and for whatever change there had been, it was the same. I wasn’t certain if I was comforted by this for those who live there, or disturbed. But it really doesn’t matter what I think. I don’t live there, but I would like to go back and eat at Kelts. It was a great job with great food and drink benefits.