Grape Expectations

Bert and Lynne Basignani spend plenty of weekends attending wine festivals where they offer samples and sales of red and white wine from their Sparks winery.

And ever since 1999, they've made the Hereford Fall Festival one of their "must" events.

The Basignanis, along with staffs at Boordy Vineyards and Woodhall Wine Cellars, are gearing up for this weekend's 13th annual Hereford Fall Festival.

It will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 15 and 16 in a field off Mt. Carmel Road in Hereford, next to Graul's.

"Last year was our best year ever at the Hereford festival," said Bert Basignani. "We poured more than 1,500 samples and sold nine cases of wine. The festival is right in our backyard and we have an attachment to it. We wouldn't miss it."

Adults who want to sample wines pay $10 admission and receive a wine glass and six sampling tickets. Non-drinking adults pay $5 and kids under 12 are free with a paying adult.

Proceeds from the festival benefit Hereford Volunteer Fire Company and the Hereford Zone Business Association.

But sipping local wine is just one activity that attracts thousands of people to Hereford.

"The festival just keeps growing every year," said Tom Ruhl, a Hereford volunteer firefighter who has chaired every festival since the first in 1999. "Our original goal was to make money for the fire company, but we've built a lot of good associations over the years with the high school, community groups, churches and businesses. We don't charge nonprofits for space, so it gives them a chance to have a lot of people pass by."

Ruhl estimated 10,000 people attended last year's two-day festival.

Festivalgoers will once again see some favorites — tractor-driven hay wagon rides, a moon bounce, games, a climbing wall, and helicopter tours of the Hereford Zone.

But organizers continue to come up with new activities to keep the festival fresh.

Free child ID program

This year's big draw will be a free service aimed at giving parents peace of mind. A child identification station will make CDs that contains information on each child, including a four-sided photo, digital fingerprints, voice-print, video, DNA swab and dental wafer for tooth impressions. Also included is child's name, address, height, weight, birthday, eye color, hair color, description of distinguishing marks, notes on health concerns and parental or guardian contact information.

The free ID program, MdChip (Maryland Child Identification & Protection Program), is sponsored by the Maryland Masonic Charities and being coordinated at the festival by Greg Hudnet and George Lang, members of the Masonic lodge in Freeland.

"The whole thing takes less than 10 minutes a child," Hudnet said. "We don't keep any records, so we urge parents to go home and make copies of the CD to keep in each car."

It will be easy to spot the ID program — just look for Hudnet's bright purple Ravens car and orange and black Oriole's car. He has restored a 1952 Buick in Ravens' colors and a 1941 Plymouth to honor the Orioles.

The Ravens car won't be there on Sunday, since Hudnet will take it to do some tailgating before the Raven's home game against Houston.

Another new feature this year gives people a chance to test drive snow blowers and yard tractors provided by Atlantic Tractor. They will be driven in an area previously used by the Racer's Edge for bicycle races. Andy Foard, of Valley View Farm, which owns the land where the bike racecourse was built, said he didn't want the course constructed this year.

On Sunday, Oct. 16, visitors get to see a unique car-crushing event. Ruhl's daughter, Brooke, 19, will drive a customized school bus called Higher Education over cars from Brown's Junkyard in White Hall.

Other demonstrations include chainsaw art and a portable foundry where knives will be made.

There are more than 60 vendors on hand to sell everything from jewelry and candles to handbags and used books.

There is plenty of food, including pit beef, crab cakes, fried chicken, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, pork barbecue, sandwiches, wraps and bison burgers. For the first time this year, steamed crabs are being sold. Ruhl said Uncle G's is providing crabs as well as picnic tables for the pickers.

Other tables will be set up under a tent sponsored by the Hereford Zone Business Association. Members have gathered together dozens of gift certificates and items for a Silent Auction and Basket Raffle.

Musical entertainment includes Green Branch, Ivy Mike and the Dalton Gang on Oct. 15; and Ashley Foster, the Front and RailAway on Oct. 16.

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