Despite morning, an autumnal chill and having been rescheduled due to a hurricane, the 35th annual Maryland Wine Festival could not be denied Saturday, drawing thousands of revelers to the grounds of the Carroll County Farm Museum.
"We are very pleased. It’s definitely a fall day but there are a lot of people out here enjoying wine," said Farm Museum Manager Joanne Weant. "We had 4,500 people as of 1:45 p.m."
Weant would go on to tally 5,500 people in attendance by 6:35 p.m. Saturday.
Originally scheduled for Sept. 15 and 16, the wine festival, a partnership between the farm museum and the Maryland Wineries Association, was rescheduled for Saturday after the original dates fell as Hurricane Florence was sweeping across the Atlantic. The storm's path still uncertain, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency, and Weant said they had no choice but to reschedule.
And while a single day event can't quite match a weekend for attendance numbers — in 2017, some 12,000 people attended — the Maryland Wineries Association was pleased with the turnout Saturday, according to Executive Director Kevin Atticks.
"It has been strong since the minute the gate opened," he said. "We were able to get all of the wineries back that were scheduled to be here in September and this crowd has been great."
Among that crowd were Caitlin Pozmanter and Kasia Hussey, both of Baltimore, who had planned on attending in September and didn't want to miss the festival even if it took place in October.
"I’ve probably been seven times," said Pozmanter. "As soon as I turned 21, my friends who are from the area, they were like, 'You’ve got to go to this.' I’ve been pretty much every year ever since."
It was Hussey's first wine festival, but she said it was off to a good start.
"I was really impressed by Boordy, and Linganore I really liked," she said of the wineries the pair had hit up. "And the wine ice cream was phenomenal. It was a great idea. Big fan."
Steve Abeyta and Katelyn McCabe had also planned on coming to the festival in September, and were happy to drive up from Arlington, Virginia, Saturday.
“I bought her tickets for her birthday,” Abeyta said. “Actually it worked out because her birthday is this month, so it worked out better for us.”
McCabe attended McDaniel College, developed a taste for Maryland wines and a tradition of attending the festival.
“I only drink Maryland wines,” she said. “when we come home to visit family, I get a bunch of wine. I don’t drink anything from Virginia.”
As the afternoon wore on, Weant pointed out that while the wine festival is a great way to see the farm museum, it’s not the only event held at the scenic Westminster location.
“We want you to come to this big party, but there are lots of other reasons to come to the museum,” she said, such as the Fall Harvest Celebration, that was originally scheduled for Saturday before being bumped to Nov. 3 to make room for the wine festival. “The fall harvest event is more things for kids, artisans; the kinds of things you don’t get to see anywhere else.”
And of course, the 2019 Maryland Wine Festival is already being planned for a weekend next September, according to Weant.
It is a tradition, after all, Atticks noted.
“I think that for all the other events we’re involved in, none will be this big. I think this is unique because it was out early, it was one of the first,” he said. “Nothing is 35 years anymore, right? That’s quite an incredible vintage.”