Ending months of debate on the future of the Maryland Wine Festival, a divided Carroll County Board of County Commissioners decided yesterday to continue sponsoring the popular event at the farm museum -- unless a more suitable private site is found.
The two-day festival, celebrated each fall for the past 16 years, generates about $100,000 in revenue for the county and draws nearly 25,000 visitors. But questions surrounding the use of county property and public sponsorship of an event centered on alcohol had made its future uncertain.
During a hastily called meeting with farm museum representatives and economic development officials yesterday, the commissioners hoped to put the questions to rest.
Although no vote was taken and the commissioners' views did not agree, the consensus was that the festival should continue.
This contradictory attitude was perhaps best captured by Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who shared his struggles with the issue.
"I never criticized the wine festival. It is a good social event. My concerns are strictly with government sponsorship," said Dell, who said he enjoys an occasional glass of wine.
"I'm not a teetotaler," he said.
Dell said Carroll County Farm Museum, a 140-acre complex near Westminster, was the best location for the event and, unless an alternative, privately owned site is proposed, he would continue to support it.
Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier pushed hardest to end government sponsorship, arguing the county should follow its prohibition against alcohol use on county property.
"It's naive to think as a leader in the community that our actions don't affect people in the community," she said. "I have to have high standards and set an example."
One option available to the commissioners yesterday was to hand over management of the festival to the Community Foundation of Carroll County, a Westminster-based nonprofit charity.
But the commissioners rejected the proposal because the foundation planned to continue holding the festival at the museum -- leaving the concern about alcohol on county-owned property unresolved.