MCHENRY — The 13th annual Deep Creek Lake Art & Wine Festival is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 9, from noon to 6 p.m. at the Garrett County Fairgrounds in McHenry. Proceeds will benefit HART for Animals and the Garrett Lakes Arts Festival (GLAF)
The fundraiser began 13 years ago when the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce’s newly formed Marketing Roundtable was given the task of developing an attraction that would increase county visitation, sales, and accommodations after Labor Day, according to HART executive director Paula Yudelevit, festival co-founder.
“After debating several possibilities, the committee began researching wine festivals as a vehicle to achieve our mission of putting ‘heads on beds,’” she said. “Because of the success of these events in other regions, the Deep Creek Lake Art & Wine Festival was born.”
Roundtable members knew that numerous volunteers and many resources would be needed in order to bring the concept to fruition, so they solicited nonprofit organizations to be the event’s beneficiary and provide support where needed.
The Marketing Roundtable then organized a second committee for the specific purpose of managing and coordinating the festival.
“In its first two years, the chamber was instrumental in providing monetary and marketing support to the event,” Yudelevit said. “After the second year, the committee became self-supporting by retaining a small amount of the profits before presenting the beneficiary with their donation.”
She noted, however, that the first year was challenging. The location of the festival was originally planned to be held at Fantasy Valley restaurant, leased at the time by Ruth and Wendell Beitzel.
“After submitting our application for the one wine festival license granted each year in Garrett County, a group of us from the committee went to the liquor board hearing at the county courthouse, ready to receive the license,” Yudelevit said. “We anticipated a 30 minute conversation at the maximum. It turned out to be almost two hours.”
What the festival committee members did not know was that, while the applicant must have a liquor license, the actual event cannot be held on his or her property.
“After months of planning, and with the advertising materials ready to print, the committee stood outside the courthouse to find a new venue,” Yudelevit said. “I remember one of our members calling a person on the fair board to see if the fairground was available. It was. The next question was if the festival could serve and sell alcohol. Fortunately, that was a ‘yes,’ too.”
With a committee of business leaders and a group of volunteers, the Deep Creek Lake Art & Wine Festival gates opened as scheduled in September 2005.
“We had hoped for 500 people the first year,” said Vianne Bell, festival co-founder. “We ended up with 800. There was so much we didn’t anticipate or even think of. Wine buckets had to be emptied, water pitchers constantly refilled, crackers replenished. We had to leave the event to buy more crackers, and beg for ice from Wisp Resort and Burger King.”
The wine is now sold during the festival at a “wine store,” conveniently located in the Ag Heritage Hall. The first year, however, the wine was sold out of the window of the fair board’s original office.
“We had wine stacked around us, with a cash box and an old-fashioned credit card machine,” Bell said. “Paula and I swore we wouldn’t do it again.”
However, the event netted $11,000 and was such a success that Bell signed on for another nine years. Yudelevit still co-chairs the event, along with Mary Callis, executive director of GLAF.
“For the first eight years, the beneficiary of the festival was a national nonprofit organization,” Callis said. “In its ninth year, the committee opted to change the beneficiary due to a major reorganization of the original charity.”
When the opportunity came along, HART and GLAF submitted a joint proposal to become the beneficiaries.
“As two local nonprofits, the proceeds now stay in the county,” Callis said. “We also have booths available for five or six local nonprofits so they too have the opportunity to benefit from the large crowds.”
Over the past four years, the festival has raised more than $200,000 for HART and GLAF, according to Callis.
The Deep Creek Lake Art & Wine Festival has come a long way in the last 12 years. According to Yudelevit, it is one of the top events in the county. Approximately 2,800 people come each year to taste over 200 regional, national, and international wines, peruse the 40-plus artisan booths, listen to live entertainment, purchase wines to take home, bid on silent auction items, and have a fun time with friends.
“More people mean more volunteers,” said Judy Carbone, volunteer chair. “In addition to Garrett College’s 80-plus athletes, we have about 70 guest pourers and another 50 or so at the front gate, as cashiers, and general helpers.”
“The festival could not be successful without an amazing committee,” Yudelevit said.
“These volunteers put hundreds of hours into this event; a few have worked on this since its inception,” she said.
In addition to co-chairs Yudelevit and Callis, the 2017 festival committee members are Sam Housley, Andy McKenzie, Michael Pellet, Ken Carbone, Judy Carbone, Ken Korando, Betty Ellington, Erin Croake, Tom Hertz, Lori Zagola, Sue Arnson, Jimmy Flanigan, Joe Refosco, Lilian Steele, and Debbie Archer.
“A few changes have occurred over the years, keeping the festival fun and appealing to the wine lovers,” Yudelevit said.
For example, a “Premium Wine” area was added several years ago to accommodate those looking for high-end varieties. The wine tasting glasses have taken a “colorful twist,” she added, with the stem color changing year-to-year, making them a “must-have” collectible.
The Friday night wine pairing dinners at local restaurants have also evolved to include winery representatives introducing wines paired with specially prepared dinner courses.
Tickets for this year’s festival are $35 each for adults age 21 and older. Those who purchase advance tickets online (http://www.deepcreekwinefest.com) will receive $5 off each ticket. A ticket includes the entry fee, a commemorative wine glass, and unlimited wine tasting. An admittance-only ticket is $12, and children 12 and under are admitted for free. Discounts are available for groups of 20 or more. Persons can call 866-635-3560 for prices.
Festival lodging packages are available at participating resort rental agencies, including Taylor Made Vacation Rentals, Coldwell Banker Resort Rentals, and Railey Mountain Lake Vacations.
This year’s festival is sponsored, in part, by numerous area businesses, including the McHenry Beverage Shop, Taylor Made Vacations and Real Estate, BB&T, Taco Bell, Arrowhead Deli, the Mountain State Brewing Company, Vacation Surfing, Railey Mountain Lake Vacations, Shop ‘n Save, Schoolhouse Earth, First United Bank & Trust, RBC Wealth Management, Pepsi Cola, American Metro, Little Mountain Promotions, DeepCreekTimes.com, NuWay Interiors, Piet and Rosie Versteegen, the Lake-Front Magazine, and Archie’s Barbeque.