The 24th annual Wine in the Woods will take place on May 21 and 22. While the festival will be a little smaller this year due to continuing construction in Symphony Woods, organizers promise there will still be plenty of wine, food and music for everyone to enjoy.
"We've had to scale back this year because of all the renovations in the Woods area," said Phil Bryan, superintendent of recreational services for Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks.
Construction of a new office building, garage and a brand new stage for Merriweather have altered the property available for the festival, Bryan said, but the changes will be minimal to the event.
"It won't affect participants," Bryan said. "It should be fine."
Kevin Atticks, executive director of the Maryland Wineries Association, says it isn't the first time the festival has had a new layout.
"That site has been shape-shifting over the years," Atticks said. "The event and customers have gone along with it."
The challenge this year, Atticks said, is that the festival is taking place "mid-redevelopment."
"There are some cornered-off areas for construction," Atticks said, but "the layout this year is great. It makes great use of that spot. The event shall go on."
The number of Maryland wineries attending will be down from 34 to 29 this year, Bryan admitted.
Boordy Vineyards in Hydes, has been a part of Wine in the Woods from the start, said Phineas Deford, co-owner and vice president. There were only 10 wineries that first year, Deford said, and fewer than 20 wineries in the state. Today, there are 70 wineries in the state, and Wine in the Woods attracts some of the largest crowds among wine events in the state.
"We've been there a long time. Since the first one," Deford said. "It consistently draws a good crowd."
Columbia's events has been the largest wine festival in the state the last few years, according to Atticks, drawing between 13,000 to 17,000 people a day.
"It has certainly grown over the years," Atticks said. "It has the benefit of drawing a lot from D.C. suburbs into Columbia."
Last year, 26,400 people attended, Bryan said. Saturday typically draws the largest crowd. And while the event is rain or shine, numbers do go down with rain.
"It is weather dependent," Bryan said. "The weather you always worry about."
Advance ticket sales are already up from last year, Bryan said. Those who purchase tickets in advance are allowed to enter Wine in the Woods early at 10:30 a.m. The event opens at 11 a.m.
"A lot of people like doing that because they can claim their spots," Bryan said, of early-arriving guests. "They put their blankets down or lawn chairs."
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The same food vendors will be attending as in the past, Bryan said, and there will still be two stages of constant music. Only the number of participating crafters will be down, Bryan said.
"We had to scale back the number of crafters from 50 to 30," Bryan said. "All crafters are juried. Most of them have been with us for years. They come from all over. They sell everything wine-related."
The activity Wine on Canvas will be back.
"One of the big attractions is the painting. It was really popular," Bryan said. "People can go in and paint different scenes."
For many attending Wine in the Woods, it is their first introduction to Maryland wines, and for state wineries, the publicity can't be beat.
"It brings a lot of new customers," Deford said, of Wine in the Woods. "If you live in Baltimore and Howard counties, it gives you a chance to visit some of the state's other wineries and try something you otherwise might not have got your hands on. It gives them a wide range of selections. We love it."
Wine in the Woods is Saturday, May 21, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, May 22, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Symphony Woods, Columbia. Ticket prices vary. To purchase tickets online, go to www.wineinthewoods.com. Tickets can also be purchased at five locations: Recreation and Parks Headquarters, 7120 Oakland Mills Road in Columbia; Gary J. Arthur Community Center, 2400 Route 97 in Cooksville; North Laurel Community Center, 9411 Whiskey Bottom Road in Laurel; Roger Carter Community Center,3000 Milltowne Drive in Ellicott City; and Robinson Nature Center, 6692 Cedar Lane in Columbia.