Hurricane forecast postpones Maryland Wine Festival, threatens beer festival

Hurricane forecast postpones Maryland Wine Festival, threatens beer festival
Karen and Jay Becker pick up their souvenir wine glasses after arriving at the 2011 Maryland Wine Festival, umbrella in tow. This year's festival was postponed until October because of weather, the first postponement in the 35-year history of the event. (Carroll County Times file photo)

After a near-record rainy summer flooded out events and washed out dams, a wet September, further darkened by the potential cloud of Hurricane Florence, is set to muddy the high-profile festivals of fall as well.

The first casualty is the Maryland Wine Festival. The 35th annual event was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at the Carroll County Farm Museum, but with the still uncertain impact of Hurricane Florence, coming ashore later in the week somewhere in the Carolinas, the festival is being rescheduled for Oct. 13 — a first, according to Farm Museum Manager Joanne Weant.


“As far as we know we have never cancelled. Nobody can remember it being rescheduled or shifted,” she said. “It’s due to the impending weather and keeping everybody safe because we get people that come from all over the state as well as out of state.”

Hurricane Florence was still out in the Atlantic Ocean Monday, but was producing winds as high as 105 mph as it headed for a probable landfall sometime Thursday night into Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service Florence briefing page.

Citing the uncertainty of the Florence’s potential track this early, and the possible consequences if it impacts portions of Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency Monday afternoon.

“We are preparing for any possible outcome, including the potential for historic and catastrophic rainfall, life-threatening flooding, and high winds," Hogan is quoted as saying in a news release.

Whether Florence hits land farther south than expected, or swings north to directly threaten Maryland shorelines, the biggest threat it could present to Carroll County and other parts inland is an increase in precipitation, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Kyle Pallozzi.

“The real question for us is what happens after it makes landfall,” Pallozzi said. “It’s uncertain what exact track it will take. A lot of the models suggest it’s slowing down and could eventually stall, so where it actually stalls is of key importance.”

With a storm system like Florence, he said, wherever it stalls will determine what areas get a lot of rainfall.

And Carroll, and the greater Baltimore region, have already gotten a lot of rainfall.

“In Baltimore, it was the second rainiest summer on record with 25.34 inches of rain,” Pallozzi said. “The rainiest was in 1955, with 25.38 inches.”

Summer rains produced flooding that damaged the baseball field at Bennett Cerf Park, in Westminster, and struck a fatal blow to the dam at Cascade Lake, forcing the Maryland Department of the Environment to drain the lake and excavate the dam.

And given the rain over the weekend and Monday morning — Carroll County was under a flood warning until mid-afternoon Monday — Pallozzi noted the ground is already saturated ahead of anything Florence might push north to Carroll.

“It’s definitely not the ideal conditions leading up to something like this,” he said.

This was readily apparent at the Union Mills Homestead, just north of Westminster, which had already seen two events cut short or cancelled due to flooding, and where portions of the grounds were once again submerged over the weekend and into Monday morning.

Union Mills Homestead is shown on Sunday, Sept. 9. Rainy weather has already forced cancellation of one event at the Homestead and could impact the microbrew festival scheduled for there later this month.
Union Mills Homestead is shown on Sunday, Sept. 9. Rainy weather has already forced cancellation of one event at the Homestead and could impact the microbrew festival scheduled for there later this month. (Lois Szymanski)

“That’s just been the story of the summer,” said homestead Executive Director Jane Sewell. “We look like we are drying out and then we get hit again.”


The second day of the annual Civil War Encampment living history event was cancelled after participants found their tents flooded in the night of Saturday, July 20, and early morning that Sunday, Sewell said, and the homestead’s annual corn roast, held without incident for 47 years, was cancelled due to muddy grounds that never fully recovered.

“The corn roast in its whole history had never been cancelled before,” she said. “This was the first time.”

Now Sewell and the homestead board have to keep one eye on the weather and the other on the homestead grounds ahead of the 13th annual Maryland Microbrewery Festival, currently scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 29.

“We still have a couple of weeks, but the park does not dry out quickly,” she said. “If we didn’t get anymore rain between now and then I think we would be OK.”

Sewell said she plans to meet with the homestead board on Wednesday to discuss what to do about the upcoming festival, but that it’s hard to make a decision the track of Florence so uncertain.

But two weeks is not a luxury Weant and the wine festival have, which is why the decision was made to move the wine festival to Oct. 13.

“We know this is not ideal. This is not what we had planned either, but we were trying to do the best we can with what we had available,” she said. “We are in the process of contacting all our vendors to see who is available.”

In order to reschedule the wine festival, Weant said the Farm Museum has also had to reschedule the annual Fall Harvest Celebration, a free event scheduled for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the same date; that celebration will now take place Nov. 3.

“The Fall Harvest Celebration is our oldest educational event,” Weant said. “The Fall Harvest Celebration is still happening. Its a big family thing, that is still free admission. It’s just moved back because of this.”

Tickets already purchased for the wine festival weekend of Sept. 15 and 16 will be honored for Oct. 13 or refunded, Weant said, but since the schedule change is significant, she is asking any volunteers interested in volunteer for the new date to go through the sign up process again through

People can track any further updates from the farm museum online as necessary, Weant said.

“You can go to the county website, you can go to the museum website and the museum has a Facebook page where we update things on a regular basis,” she said. “If they have concerns they can call our 800 number, 800-654-4645.”

There was discussion about the change of date during Monday night’s Westminster mayor and Common Council meeting.

Councilman Tony Chiavacci asked Recreation and Parks Director Abby Gruber about the fact that the Maryland Wine Festival and the city’s Oyster Stroll are now scheduled for the same day.

“I’m just afraid it draws a lot of the same people,” Chiavacci said.

Gruber said that they would just hope for turnout.

“We can’t fret about something that we didn’t have any input or control over, so we’re just sallying forth and hoping for great weather and spectacular turnout as we’ve had in the past,” she said.


Jamie Petry, Westminster volunteer fire company president, said they would also need to review where personal would be present, because they historically have had a large EMS presence standing by at both events and are also holding an open house that day.

Catalina Righter contributed to this story.