MORE than 10,000 people streamed through the gates at this year’s Grampians Grape Escape.
Festival director David Wheaton said the figures were yet to be finalised, but he was confident the number of attendees at Halls Gap Oval at the weekend was well up on last year’s 9000.
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine was a special guest, crushing some grapes to officially open the festival.
Mr Wheaton was especially impressed by the number of people who braved the chilly and at times wet weather.
“It just shows that people who love the festival aren’t daunted by a little bit of rain,” he said.
“The sun was out on Saturday morning, so I think when people were planning their days, they decided to go out.”
About 200 people also rugged up for the inaugural Grampians Grape Escape After Dark festivities on Saturday night.
By night, Halls Gap Oval transformed into a wine, woodfired pizza and entertainment hub.
“We were pleased with the turnout and the performances,” Mr Wheaton said.
He said next year’s festival program was also likely to feature an After Dark event.
Grampians Tourism chief executive Will Flamsteed believes there was a large influx of Melburnians.
“There were a lot of people who made the trip from Melbourne, Ballarat, Horsham and from down south as well,” he said.
“I think a lot of people recognise the Grampians and Pyrenees for their fantastic food and wine.”
Victorian horse racing identity and Menzies Art brands advisory board member Tony Cavanagh visited Horsham on Friday for the launch of this year’s Art Is... festival.
He was persuaded to extend his stay by Wimmera residents who were raving about the Grampians Grape Escape.
“I hadn’t been to Grampians Grape Escape before,” Mr Cavanagh said.
“I probably spent about three hours there on Saturday, then went on to watch the races at Ararat.
“There was a tremendous amount of exhibitors and a very good vibe.”
Northern Grampians Mayor Kevin Erwin hopes the festival will go from strength to strength next year, which will be its 24th year.
“I must pay a compliment to our organiser Dave Wheaton, who has done a very good job,” he said.
“I would also like to thank our volunteers and sponsors.”