Their costumes have been purchased; they've spent hours studying YouTube clips of a certain curly-haired comedienne. All that remains for a group of local business leaders is to don their red wigs, hop in a barrel and crush some grapes -- with their feet.
An "I Love Lucy" charity grape-stomping and Lucille Ball look-alike contest will headline a slate of events on Hilton Head Island this weekend for "Uncork" the Festival. The weekend, which also includes a wine-judging competition featuring more than 20 master and advanced sommeliers from across the country, was organized as a preview for the 28th Hilton Head Wine & Food Festival, scheduled to begin on the island March 4.
The grape-stomping is the latest addition to Uncork the Festival, an event in which wine aficionados gather with a bottle of wine or champagne they've been saving for a special occasion, pop it open and share the story that goes along with it.
"We've talked for many, many years about doing a grape-stomping during the festival itself," festival spokeswoman Jan Gourley said. "It would have been just another thing to have to staff and worry about but we thought it would be perfect for 'Uncork' the Festival."
For two minutes, each team member will stomp the grapes, imitating a classic scene from "I Love Lucy," during which Lucille Ball apprenticed at an Italian vineyard to help prepare for a film role she had been offered.
In the episode, Ball apes a traditional winemaking technique known as pigeage, which required that the skins of fermenting grapes be tamped down or crushed to avoid forming a thick layer across the top of a vat of still-fermenting wine that could spoil the juice.
The winning team, as voted on by those in attendance, will receive cash prizes for a charity of their choice.
Some of the participants, such as Jill Jauch of New River Auto Mall, have well-formed strategies.
"I'm just going for speed," said Jauch, marketing and advertising director of the New River Auto Mall. "I don't have very big feet. I'm only a size 7, so I'm just going to move my feet up and down as fast as I can and hope I can crush a lot of grapes. We're going to win."
Others, such as Lauren House of The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort and Spa, are taking a more light-hearted approach.
"We've Googled the episode, but I wouldn't say that we have a particular strategy," House said. "We're just going to drink some wine and hope for the best."
Seven teams are signed up for the event, and Gourley said recruiting them has been the easiest part of organizing this weekend's festivities.
Purchasing the grapes, on the other hand, has been a different story.
"Surprisingly, buying the grapes have been the most expensive part of all of this," she said. "Grapes prices right now are at an all-time high. We have about 20 pounds of grapes, and we're up to about $600 in grape costs."