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Harford liquor board narrowly votes down liquor license request for Cabin Fever

Cabin Fever, the country-themed survivalist festival planned for Darlington this weekend, was dealt a major blow by the Harford County Liquor Control Board days before the event.

The board members narrowly voted down the organizers' request for a liquor license Wednesday, citing concerns about the proximity of alcohol to firearms and questioning the request for a non-profit, one-day beer, wine and liquor license.

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Cabin Fever, in its second year, is set to run Saturday and Sunday at Camp Ramblewood off Darlington's Silver Road and will feature singers Dustin Lynch and Uncle Kracker.

The organizers added the musical entertainment to the original offering of a weekend aimed at emergency preparedness that included training in self-defense, archery, food storage and other workshops.

Liquor board members grilled Cabin Fever organizer Carl Baaske, Maryland Faerie Festival executive producer Thomas Friedel and Ramblewood owner Harry Leff on plans for the event, including security protocol and the purpose of the musical acts.

"I have been a hunter and fisherman all my life, and the idea of firearms and alcohol do not mix," liquor inspector Charles Robbins said.

Cabin Fever's representatives agreed and said they would only have alcohol starting at 4:30 p.m., half an hour after any classes would be over and weapons locked away.

They also agreed to document that profits would go to the Maryland Faerie Festival, a non-profit venture also held at Camp Ramblewood.

Despite those assurances, board chairwoman Sandi Tunney and commissioner Vernon Gauss voted against the license request. Commissioner Thomas Fidler was absent from the five-member board Wednesday, leading to a tie vote.

Michael Thomson and C. John Sullivan voted in favor of the license. Thomson made the motion to approve the license after he was assured the board would get a complete accounting of alcohol sales at the end of the event and proof that profits are going to the Faerie Festival.

"I am more concerned about the nonprofit status and us correctly giving you this license," Thomson said, adding the organizers already proved they have the ability to run an event.

Tunney was concerned about law enforcement, although organizers said they already spoke with local officials about security and would have law enforcement officers running the weapons range.

Robbins said law enforcement officials had the same concerns as he did, namely that the event was happening on the same weekend as the highly-popular Darlington Apple Festival.

"They know it's going to be congested up there," Robbins said in reference to traffic.

Tunney even asked about the possibility of concealed weapons, wondering if it may be a "macho" thing for attendees to bring in.

Baaske said security will be ensuring no one will bring weapons on the site. He also said firearms will be secured and locked away after each workshop.

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Baaske and co-organizer Moe Izadpanah, both from the Miami, Fla., area, wrote the liquor board a letter Sept. 18 in an attempt to clarify their plans.

"We apologize for any confusion that we may have caused. Our intent was not to mislead anyone into thinking that we would be serving alcohol while our activities and workshops were in session, nor was the primary purpose of this event for profit," Baaske and Izadpanah wrote in the letter.

"At no point in time were we planning on serving any alcoholic beverages during the day while activities and workshops were in progress," the letter continued. "We truly hope that we can make a positive impact on the community through our event."

Leff told the board that, as owner of Ramblewood, he has a standard that must be met at the camp. He mentioned the success of the Nightmare Festival held during Halloween last year.

"This is a standard I require of anyone on our property," he said.

Gauss, however, noted the letter says only a portion of revenues will go to the Faerie Festival.

"We are getting some conflicting reports," he said, repeating that he strongly felt that firearms or other weapons and alcohol do not mix.

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