It’s common for people to explain that one has to crack some eggs to make an omelet, but less so to say that one has to stomp some grapes to make wine. Though unrecognized as an aphorism, the process is celebrated at 2013 Grape Stompin' Wine Festival, where attendees get the chance to unleash their wrath on the unfortunate fruit, all between tastings and activities. Throughout the day, guests embark on tours of downtown restaurants and bistros to sample pairings of wines, craft beers, and food. A silent auction encourages clandestine bidding wars, while local vendors peddle arts, crafts, food, and oversized novelty foam feet.
A famous tautologist once said that nothing pairs better with a crawfish festival than crawfish. This thought-provoking maxim is an apt summation of the Ocala Crawfish Fest, an annual celebration of Louisiana-style cooking and live music. In an interview with Ocala.com, festival organizer Deb Cone described the event as an opportunity to combine kids-education fundraising efforts with casual, laid-back fun. As she put it, “We wanted to do something for the entire community where you don't have to dress up.” Attendees can throw down blankets or lawn chairs and kick back to musical stylings that are as Cajun as the cuisine that is being served up, all while reveling in the knowledge that their merriment is helping the independent education facility Hale Academy.
For the weekend of January 4 and 5, the polo grounds transform into the Renaissance-era Village of Hopewell for The Villages Renaissance Faire. Down the dusty roads, vendors sell jewelry and wooden crafts, sword fighters entertain in a comedy show, and King Henry VIII enjoys a rousing joust. Throughout the day, patrons can also fill their stomachs with hearty fair foods, including massive roasted-turkey legs.
For three days, the Jacksonville International Car & Truck Show turns the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center into the nation’s most exciting parking lot. Deluxe rides from the likes of Lotus, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche dazzle attendees with sleek lines and plush interiors, and innovative autos such as the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt show off their efficient electric engines. The newest models from more than 25 other manufacturers line the floor, doors open for guests to lean back in the seats or measure how large a ham can fit in the glove compartment. During daylight hours, a lineup of drivable cars idle outside to give curious patrons the chance to try their dream rides.
Jackrabbits, one of Jacksonville’s primary downtown live music venues, is an intimate home for local and national bands like The Hives, Slightly Stoopid, Incubus and many others. The newly renovated bar area serves beer and wine only – though the selection, while focused, features many otherwise hard-to-find craft brews. Though this venue can get quite crowded depending on the act, tickets are reasonably priced and guests can always get an up close and personal experience, thanks to the limited floor space. The nondescript entrance can be hard to spot, as it’s little more than a gray door with the name Jack Rabbits scrawled across. The décor is typical dive bar, dark and grayish with sturdy seating, while most of the focus is on the stage, where lighting and sound are top-notch.
The Jacksonville RollerGirls’ derby divas, members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, deliver fast-paced, four-wheeled fun to crash-craving audiences. The group of more than 70 wheeled warriors is split into four teams, composed of hip-checking hustlers such as Crash Register and Kat Von Skratchereyezout, who whip around corners toppling opponents like human bowling pins in search of points and respect in the streets. This year’s home-opening bout features two of the Jacksonville RollerGirls’ teams—the River City Rat Pack and New Jax City Rollers—skating against Knoxville’s Hard Knox Roller Girls to determine which team gets to join the NFL.