Weather, Preakness can't cork festival

Wine in the Woods draws crowd of 12,000

May 21, 2002|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,SUN STAFF

Despite wet, cool weather and competition from Pimlico Race Course's Preakness bash, the 10th Wine in the Woods outdoor festival in Columbia during the weekend drew about 12,000 people - 1,000 more than last year, organizers said yesterday.

"People come no matter what the weather. It's really amazing to me," event supervisor Barbara Lett said. "They come dressed in layers and bring tarps and chairs; they're totally prepared."

On the surface, the two-day festival's recipe was largely the same as that on Preakness' infield: entertainment, alcohol and food vendors. But the atmospheres were about as different as they could be: At the Preakness, the large crowd makes plenty of noise. At Wine in the Woods, the event was mellow music, sauntering couples and a general feeling of relaxation, said Lett, who lives in Marriottsville.

The festival, which ran from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, featured wines from 11 Maryland wineries, including Linganore Winecellars in Mount Airy and Catoctin Winery in Brookeville.

Participants were issued 10 tickets (per $18 admission), which they traded in for 1-ounce wine samples. Dozens of craft workers and artists set up booths and displayed items such as grilling wood soaked in wine and handmade jewelry, paintings and weavings.

But, as at Pimlico, there was lots of mud - especially Saturday when morning rain made a mess of the ground - and cold, which still caught some people off guard.

"Luckily we had three pairs of gloves and a hat in our car," said Veda Butcher of Baltimore - unluckily, they had to divvy them up among their party of 10. "The bottom of our pants got a little messed up, but it wasn't bad. [Event workers] kept carting in wood chips to put over the mushy spots, which was really nice. They could have just left it muddy."

The mulch was originally supposed to make up a temporary road organizers build every year for the vendors so they can drive in their wares and wine, but the rain made that impossible. "It was like a swimming pool out there," Lett said.

Participants had to lug their breakables through the woods on foot, and the wood chips were delegated to damage control.

Wine in the Woods was sponsored by the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks. Though Lett had no profit projections yesterday, the money raised will go to an in-house scholarship program for classes the department offers and to pay the salary of the historic sites' coordinator, who works to increase tourism in the county.

"It was definitely worth going, even with the weather," Butcher said. "It just meant the hot-coffee line was doing a good business along with the wine lines."

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