One of the best know traditions of the annual Nauvoo Grape Festival is the historical pageant which portrays the history of Nauvoo from the early 1800's to the present day. The script for this historical pageant was written in 1952 by Mother Mary Paul, a Benedictine Nun. Since then it has been presented each night during the Grape Festival on the natural amphitheater, the Nauvoo Grape Bowl in the Nauvoo State Park.
Originally the Sac and Fox Indians were here and their village was known as Quashquema, which was also the name of their chief. Later the fur traders, under the leadership of Captain James White, set up a fur trading village known as Venus, which was then later renamed Commerce, and then renamed again to Commerce City. In 1839 the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith led his people here. In a few short years these hearty pioneers built a large city, named it Nauvoo and constructed a Temple on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi. When these Mormons were forced to leave Illinois because of religious reasons, the city was abandoned. In 1849 Etienne Cabet and his Icarian compatriots came to Nauvoo from their native France and established a commune on Temple Square. Their goal was to live together and share and share alike. By 1856 they had discovered this was an impossible undertaking and the commune broke up. Many Icarians stayed in Nauvoo and began the cultivation of grapes with their German neighbors. A by product of growing grapes is wine-making. Soon there were over 600 acres of vineyards and the hills of Old Nauvoo were dotted with stone arched wine cellars. That was a way of life in Nauvoo until Uncle Sam lowered the boom with the Volstead Act in 1919. When Prohibition went into effect in January 1920, the wine industry in Nauvoo shut down.
After the repeal of Prohibition, the wine industry was revived. About the same time the Nauvoo Blue Cheese Company was organized and Nauvoo soon became famous for her Nauvoo wines and Nauvoo Blue cheese. And so each year at harvest time Nauvoo celebrates the grape harvest with a Grape Festival. A highlight of the pageant is an old French ceremony, The Wedding of the Wine and Cheese, uniting two of Nauvoo's most famous products - wine and cheese in holy matrimony.
Nauvoo Grape Festival Association
PO Box 441
Nauvoo, IL 62354