A marquee event on the Howard County calendar, Wine in the Woods returns with the usual abundance of food, music, crafts and, of course, wine tasting on Saturday and Sunday, May 20 and 21.
Anticipation runs high, even in places far from ground zero at Symphony Woods in Columbia.
They're psyched for the big pour, for example, in Calvert County. Staff at the Running Hare Vineyard in Prince Frederick, one of the vendors, will be loading a trailer to the top with cases of its pinot grigio, malbec and chardonnay quaffs.
"We do a lot of wine events, and this is one of the biggest," said Kristy Alleva, who coordinates events and membership at the 200-acre vineyard.
The vineyard, which has its origins as a hunting lodge with some grape arbors, is a relative newbie among the 27 vineyards who will be filling goblets this year. Front and center will be its Jack Rabbit White and Jack Rabbit Red, as well as an award-winning malbec that Alleva described as "amazing" at $26 a bottle.
The pourers will be a combination of volunteers and members of the vineyard's VIP Club.
"Some of them are professional wine-festival-goers who know there are perks," Alleva said.
"Typically, a bottle of wine if they behave," she said.
The showpiece at this year's event will be the newly finished Chrysalis amphitheater, which will serve as the main stage.
To commemorate the quarter-century mark, the merchandise tent will offer T-shirts, blankets, glasses and other memorabilia stating "Wine in the Woods 25 years."
Phil Bryan, superintendent of recreational services for Howard County Recreation and Parks, predicted a turnout of 15,000 each day if the weather holds. Rain or shine, Wine in the Woods goes on.
Advance ticket sales are "a little slower than last year," he said, but will probably pick up if dry weather is forecast.
The event was launched 25 years ago with 10 participating wineries. The highest number of vendors has been 35, but this year is 27, down from 29 last year. In addition to the usual suspects from northern Baltimore County, some of this year's vendors will hail from the Eastern Shore and Pennsylvania.
Two stages will feature music acts on both days.
Chrysalis stage on Saturday: Radio King Orchestra, swing era, at noon; Bad Influence Band, blues and funk, at 1:30 p.m.; and Secret Society, jazz and R&B, at 3:30 p.m. On Sunday: United Jazz Ensemble, 11:45 a.m.; Chopteeth, Afro-funk, at 1:15 p.m.; and Junkfood, rock, at 3:15 p.m.
Vineyard stage on Saturday: King Teddy, jazz and swing, at 11:30 a.m.; Crawdaddies, zydeco and rock, at 1 p.m.; and Party Like It's, pop, at 3 p.m. On Sunday: Sara Jones, jazz, 11:30 a.m.; Mama's Black Sheep, rock and country, 1 p.m.; and I&I Riddim, reggae, at 3 p.m.
The 25 food stand choices are all over the map, including Asian, Mexican, Italian, curry, Cajun, barbecue, Greek and Natty Boh bratwurst from Tino's Italian Bistro.
Want to shop? Choose from crafters peddling jewelry, art, glass, silk, pet accessories, candles, bonsai, iron work and driftwood sailboats from Art Sea.
Bring picnic baskets, folding chairs and small umbrellas. Leave your cigarettes at home.
The event runs 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Advance tickets for wine tasting are $32 on Saturday and $27 on Sunday. Tickets for designated drivers and youths age 3 to 20 are $25 on Saturday and $20 on Sunday. Ages 3 and younger go in free. Tickets can be scanned from a Smartphone.
Tickets bought at the gate are $40 Saturday and $35 on Sunday.
Advance ticket holders can enter a half hour early, at 10:30 a.m., to claim the best spots to unfold their chairs. Wine pouring begins at 11 a.m.
In addition to online purchase at the website wineinthewoods.com, advance tickets can be obtained at Rec and Parks headquarters at 7120 Oakland Mills Road, the North Laurel Community Center, the Gary J. Arthur Community Center, the Roger Carter Community Center and the Robinson Nature Center.