Maryland festivals: Celebrating communities
by Jennifer LB Leese
Maryland isn't only known for its blue crabs, sandy beaches, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and hospitality, they are also known for their year-round festivals and celebrations.
Festivals have been around for several centuries. Pilgrims had a festival with their first substantial harvest, i.e. Thanksgiving. Mexico has a festival called El Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) every year where they honor lost ancestors. Ancient Egyptian festivals were religious, but others were not such as one festival established by Ramesses III to celebrate his victory over the Libyans. Festivals were large celebrations with plenty of available food. In one festival in the 12th century BC, 11,341 loaves of bread and 385 jars of beer were given to the public. The Sed festival celebrated the 30th year of the pharaohs rule and then every three (or four in one case) years after that.
By definition, a festival is an event, usually staged by a local community, centering on some theme, sometimes on some unique aspect of the community whether historical or culturally. The word festival comes from feste meaning feast, originating somewhere between 1200 and 1460. During the centuries, festivals served as a way of fulfilling specific social needs and duties, as well as to providing entertainment. These times of celebration offered a sense of belonging for religious, social, or geographical groups. They were also for when the elderly shared stories and transferred certain knowledge to the next generation. Historic feasts often provided a means for unity among families, and select festivals were put on to commemorate previous significant occurrences. Modern festivals have kept with the tradition of festivals past, varying approach and technique.
Festivals are a great way of exploring new territory, meeting new people, discovering a new culture, and learning something new.
Throughout the year Maryland hosts many festivals and celebrations. Because of our rolling hills, open fields, and wineries, wine festivals are a popular event.
One of the best-kept secrets of these major wine festivals is how much time and energy they save you. Just think of having to drive from Deep Creek Lake in far-western Maryland to the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland to visit every winery. Festivals bring Maryland's finest wines to your backyard, saving you a couple tanks of rather expensive gas. And since many of the wineries offer special festival pricing, you can use that saved cash to take home a few bottles of your new favorite wines.
The Maryland Wine Festival in September is a tradition, not only in Maryland but all over the United States and even in Europe. This annual gala has become a bonafide Maryland tradition and achieved national recognition held in Westminster.
At the Riverside Wine Fest at Sotterley-a national historic landmark in St. Mary's County-visitors are guaranteed for to enjoy good food, live music, and fine wine. They also offer artisan vendors, demonstrations, exhibits, mansion tours, and children's events.
The Autumn Wine Festival, in October, is one of only four such festivals sanctioned by the Association of Maryland Wineries and is the only one on the Eastern Shore. The event will feature wines from nearly a dozen Maryland Wineries, as well as local cuisine, juried arts and fine crafts, as well as live jazz music.
There are an assortment of festivals, i.e. film festivals, harvest festivals, craft festivals, religious festivals, food festivals, kids festivals, music festivals, art festivals, wine festivals, plain 'ole fun festivals, and book festivals...the list goes on.
The Buffalo Jambalaya Zydeco & Cajun dance weekend in Darlington during August is one of those festivals meant to educate the public culturally. This 3-day Cajun and Zydeco dance and music camp offers live music, workshops, beginning and advanced dancing for both Cajun and Zydeco, as well as musical instrument workshops, midnight jam sessions, scrumptious Cajun cooking and much much more.
The Augustoberfest, is another, celebrating Hagerstown's affiliation with our sister city in Wesel, Germany. This exciting event occurs annually mid-August in downtown Hagerstown.
If you're looking for a plain 'ole fun festival, then the Westminster Fallfest is for you. This September event features a parade, food, games, live entertainment, contests, a kid court, rides, crafts, petting zoo, and more! This charity fundraising event is the place to be this fall.
Personally, one of my favorite kinds of festivals are book festivals. The Baltimore Book Festival, late September, early October, is the mid-Atlantic's premier celebration of the literary arts and features 225+ nationally known and local authors, poetry readings, storytelling, cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs, live music and more than 75 exhibitors and booksellers.
Celebrating one of Maryland's yummiest creatures is the Maryland Music Festival & Crab Feast. This annual event in Upper Marlboro offers rich music, crab heritage, great seafood, plus Maryland blue crabs.
Craft festivals tend to draw visitors from around the country. Many vendors travel from festival to festival throughout the year. Sugarloaf craft festivals throughout Maryland draw thousands of people every year. This festival features fine artists and craft designers as well as entertainment, demonstrations, and delicious food, as does the Country Peddler Craft Show of Frederick, which features over 120 crafters from the surrounding area & local artists. In Hagerstown, the Jonathan Hager Frontier Craft Days at the City Park, is well visited and tons of fun with crafts, demonstrations, tours, museum, food, and live music.
Before ever attending a renaissance festival, I didn't know what the excitement was about until I joined thousands by going to the August through October Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville. Not too far, but far enough to get away for the day. The Maryland Renaissance Festival is a recreation of a 16th century English village. Known as Revel Grove, the festival is held on a beautiful 25-acre wooded site with 85 acres of free parking. The village consists of craft and food booths, five pubs, ten major stages, a Jousting Arena, and stores-all set in 16th century, complete with costumes, jesters, and kings.
The Maryland State Fair, also known nationally, is worth the trip to Timonium. This ten-day festival with home arts, entertainment, agricultural demonstrations, Thoroughbred horse racing, and livestock presentations, runs late August to early September yearly.
As you can see there is an abundance of festival sorts. Not all are for everyone, but like with my experience and the Maryland Renaissance Festival--you may go and have tons of fun. Give Maryland festivals a try! You won't regret it!