The 11th annual Maryland Wine Festival will open tomorrow with a bounty of fine wines and gourmet cuisine.
As many as 20,000 visitors are expected to attend the annual two-day event at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Admission is $12 for those age 21 and older and includes a logo-engraved wine glass, tickets for 10 one-ounce samples of Maryland wines, attendance at the wine-tasting seminar, and self-guided tours of period craft exhibits and demonstrations. Those under 21 will be admitted free when accompanied by an adult.
Visitors to the museum's 140 acres will find a bustling tent city, where more than 800 volunteers will coordinate ticket sales, wine seminars and artisan demonstrations.
"Our phones have been ringing from all over," said Dottie Freeman, the museum's administrative marketing specialist. Most callers are seeking directions, but some are magazine and newspaper writers.
Regular festival-goers will notice two new features this year. One is a large canopy tent where visitors can "sit down, relax and enjoy the entertainment," Mrs. Freeman said.
She and other farm museum staff members have observed that while many visitors stroll the grounds, wine glass and plate in hand, others have said they prefer a more stationary dining experience.
Organizers will indulge them this year with the "Wine and Dine Tent." Behind the farmhouse in the flower garden area, the tent is close to the stage, where country, jazz, Dixieland, swing and ragtime bands are scheduled to perform.
Also new this year is a free shuttle service.
"We wanted to alleviate the stresses and strains of waiting in line for parking," Mrs. Freeman said.
"The bus has racks to carry wine festival crafts, memorabilia, or whatever bundles of goodies visitors will be taking home with them," she said.
Shuttles will run every 15 minutes from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday between the large parking lot at Carroll Community College and the main ticket booth at the museum.
Tomorrow, the Governor's Cup trophy will be presented to a Maryland winery for outstanding wine.
Other activities include jugglers, strolling entertainers and volunteers in period costume who will demonstrate spinning, weaving, broom making and quilting.
About 500 cyclists are expected to take part in the fourth annual wine festival bike tour, a fund raiser for the American Lung Association, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. tomorrow.
Cyclists can select 10-, 25- or 50-mile tours. Registration is from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Carroll County Agricultural Center on Smith Avenue, next to the farm museum.
For a $15 registration fee and a pledge of $70 or more, participants receive admission, preferred parking, a commemorative T-shirt, a wine glass and coupons for wine tasting for those age 21 and older.
Mrs. Freeman said that knowledge of the event seems to grow each year, with rooms at local bed-and-breakfasts booked months in advance.
For some, however, several months isn't early enough.
"Estelle Williams at the Winchester Country Inn called us this week to ask when the '95 festival was scheduled," she said.
"She had some people who wanted to make reservations."
For information on the wine festival, call (800) 654-4645 or 876-2667.