Wine in the Woods is one of the premier events in the region and a source of pride for Howard County. The entire Department of Howard County Recreation and Parks has worked together as a team to produce this event. The Festival has been voted Best Outdoor event by Columbia Magazine in 1997 and 1998 and awarded Best Annual Festival in Howard County by Howard Magazine for the past five years. It has become a tradition and a mainstay for the local community and beyond, becoming a sparkling tourist attraction that brings visitors from far and wide. How did Wine in the Woods become this unique gem in Howard County?
In 1990 the success of the Carroll County Wine festival over its five years of operation inspired Paul Farragut, then a County Councilman for District 4 in Columbia, to convince colleagues that a Wine Festival might be a good tourism event for Howard County. This idea was shared with the Administration who then requested the Department of Recreation and Parks investigate the possibility of Howard County hosting a wine festival.
The first step was to make sure the appropriate legal channels were pursued. Legislation had to be passed regarding the sale and distribution of wine within the county, so the Howard County Delegation put together a bill that would allow a wine festival, featuring Maryland wineries only and its activities to take place in Howard County. Once this legislation was passed in April of 1991, the staff of the Department of Recreation and Parks began the planning for Wine in the Woods.
The next step was to select a date and location, so scheduling and searching for the right property was the next priority. There were several other events within the Department and around the county that had to be worked around to avoid conflicts and after some research and deliberation, it was decided that the weekend after Mother’s Day would be the best time to hold this event. A venue that could park about 10,000 cars and hold a large number of people was needed. One location that could handle this kind of volume was the grounds outside Merriweather Post Pavilion - Symphony Woods,
The location of the festival was established along with the date, participating wineries, vendors and sponsors. The event still didn’t have a name – yet. Since the location was at Symphony Woods, it quickly became clear that “Wine in the Woods” was the right choice.
After facing all the challenges, details, and planning it takes to put on this kind of event, there is one obstacle we can never escape from: Mother Nature. While spring in Maryland can often be the most beautiful time of the year, it has also become the most unpredictable. Native Marylanders know all too well that anything is possible in May: from hot and sunny to cold and rainy. The weather continues to be an unpredictable factor but we keep going year after year. After all, the show must go on!
In 1997, The Event attendance averaged about 7,500 people each day. By 2007 Wine in the Woods welcomed 20,000 people through its gates. Attendance since then has grown to 25,000+ and we continue to plan and prepare for the ever-increasing attendance each year.
As interest in the festival has grown, so does participation from the wineries. To help us facilitate the growing interest from the wineries, the Maryland Winery Association has played a large role in coordinating and serving as a liaison between the Department and the individual wineries. Participation from Maryland Wineries has grown from 10 wineries in 1992 to 35 wineries currently. In addition to wineries, the event attracts almost fifty artisans, musicians on two stages and over twenty food vendors. It truly is a remarkable festival that has grown over the years to be a premiere event for wine lovers in Howard County and beyond!
We look forward to many more years of Wine in the Woods!