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In Laurens, it’s time to drink in summer

Annual celebration runs the gamut from wine tasting to four-wheeler pull

July 15, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, , Messenger News

LAURENS - For the fifth year, Laurens will celebrate a traditional drink of its sister city of Laurens, France.

The annual Wine Festival will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, in conjunction with the town's Summer Celebration.

Seven Iowa wineries will have booths in the Laurens City Park near the public library. For $10, visitors at least 21 years old will get to sample a wide variety of wines. The fee also includes a 10-ounce wine glass with this year's wine festival logo.

Article Photos

-Messenger file photo
Dave Swaroff, of Dayton, savors every drop of wine during the 2011 Laurens Wine Festival. Swaroff was tasting a sample from Stone Cliff Winery, of Dubuque.

"Having seven different wineries, and each of them brings a variety, it just gives people a really good variety of Iowa wines to taste," said committee chair Mary Runneberg.

She said seven was a good number of wineries for the number of people they're expecting. Usually 250 to 300 people come and taste.

The biggest change this year will be the location.

"We're having it in a shady area. Hopefully that will help it be cooler," she said. "It's always been on the street, on a hard surface, and it will be on a grassy area this time."

The event is a fundraiser for the local Sister City Commission, to help send Laurens, Iowa students to Laurens, France.

The two cities have been sister cities since 2008. Runneberg said the people of Laurens, France, first became interested when they saw the movie "The Straight Story" about a Laurens, Iowa, man who rode a lawn mower from his hometown to Wisconsin. The towns' relationship was made possible through Sister Cities International.

Laurens, France, is in a big area for wine production, Runneberg said. The Iowa wine festival began as the relationship between the two cities was just being started. In 2007, visitors from the French sister city visited, bringing a bottle of wine for everyone in town. They also had a booth at the celebration giving out samples.

Wine production is becoming big in Iowa too, Runneberg said.

"We went from having just a few wineries to close to 100 wineries in Iowa now. It's been growing over last 10 years."

Quite a few of the Summer Celebration events have been moved from Third Street, where there was no shade, to the City Park, said Chamber Secretary Connie Dallenbach.

A car and motorcycle show will be at the park from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday. Dallenbach said the show will be bigger than in recent years.

"Last year we did it, but we didn't have as many cars," she said. "We're kind of starting it over again."

It's a Show and Shine event, she said - visitors can look at the cars and cycles down by the park while eating or in between the other activities. There will be a first and second prize, as well as prizes for the oldest car, the car that came the furthest and a people's choice award.

Another celebration highlight is the four-wheeler pull, now in its second year. Chamber President Ashley Akridge said the town has a local pull company come and put that on.

"Last year I think we had about 40 or 45 entries. It's really taken off, the sport itself," she said.

Some of the four-wheelers have been modified, she said, with specialty tires and the like. A lot of them are just standard four-wheelers that people bring in from the farm.

Weigh-in for the pull will begin at 10 a.m. and the event will start at 11 a.m. at the Laurens Country Club, on Iowa Highway 10, west of Laurens.

This year will also be the second annual Frisbee Golf Tournament at 1 p.m. Saturday at Sportsman's Park, sponsored by the Kiwanis.

Other events include inflatables and a carnival for kids, a swing band Friday night at Sportsman's Park, free swimming at the city pool, the Laurens Fire Department water fight, and a street dance and beer garden featuring the band Rehab Monday, beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday on 3rd St.

There will be fireworks Friday night after dark.

"It's a really good fireworks thing," Dallenbach said. "We get a good deal because we do it after the Fourth."

More information on the wine festival is at

For more on the celebration, visit



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