Carroll board votes to keep wine festival at farm museum

November 24, 1999|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

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 Carroll County Farm Museum unless a more suitable private site is found.

The two-day festival, held 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 disagreed, the consensus was that the festival should continue.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said of his struggles with the issue, "I never criticized the wine festival. It is a good social event. My concerns are strictly with government sponsorship." He said he enjoys an occasional glass of wine and added, "I'm not a teetotaler."

Dell said the Farm Museum, a 140-acre complex near Westminster, is the best location for the event and that unless an alternative, privately owned site is proposed, he will continue to support it.

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier pushed hardest to end government sponsorship, arguing that 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.

The commissioners rejected the proposal because the foundation planned to continue holding the festival at the museum, leaving unresolved the concern about alcohol on county-owned property unresolved.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge offered strong support to keeping the festival at the museum.

"I feel the wine festival has been very good to Carroll County. It's brought people in from all over the United States," she said.

"I think what we have been advocating is moderation. It's been very well sponsored and monitored. I would like to see the wine festival continue into the future."

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