The very first Maryland Wine Festival was held at the Shriver Homestead in Union Mills, in September, 1984. It was the brainchild of John Barker, then director of tourism in Carroll County. How he conceived the idea is unknown, and the first we heard about it was in the early spring, when he called the local chapter of the American Wine Society and asked for help in planning the thing. Well, sure! Anything to do with wine, count us in.
The details are vague now, 20-some years later. The basic Festival was pretty much the same then as it is now, but on a much smaller scale, and was held for only one day. The Wine Education Seminars, managed by a few stalwart compadres, were part of the original program. There was an amateur wine adjudication, but it was an impromptu affair. Folks brought in their homemade wines and asked for comments on them. No one had planned for this. The idea for a wine-making demonstration had not yet germinated.
The very first Maryland Wine Festival was held in 1984 at the Shriver Homestead in Union Mills with eight (8) wineries and approximately 4,500 to 5,000 visitors in attendance. It was a one-day festival that quickly outgrew the property. Thus, The Maryland Wine Festival® was moved to the Carroll County Farm Museum, and it became a two-day affair. Through those 29 years, visitor population has grown to over 20,000 yearly with a grand total to date of well over 832,700 visitors. 1964 was also the year that the Association of Maryland Wineries was organized. From the initial year of 1984 to 1985, this festival went from eight wineries to ten wineries. 1988 saw 13 wineries in attendance. Each year thereafter one or more wineries came on board. In 2008, winery attendance jumped to 23 wineries. Then in 2009, 32 wineries attended The Maryland Wine Festival®. Thirty-seven Maryland Wineries were scheduled to be in attendance at the 2010 Maryland wine Festival. Within the last two years, this Festival has seen 37 to 38 Maryland Wineries represented.
Other happenings through those 29 years have been accomplished to refine this "Grand Dame" of a Maryland wine Festival. In 1990, The Maryland Wine Festival® poster contest was initiated with $1,000 going to the selected winner. In 1991, the Governor's Cup Award was instituted when Governor Schaefer endorsed this annual recognition of Maryland wines. Also, the first Maryland Wine Festival Bike Tour was held to benefit the American Lung Association.
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