OCEAN CITY – The 1st Annual Wine in the Park is being held this weekend at Northside Park and is being modeled after the long-standing event held in the Inlet each fall.

Wine in the Park is being organized by the same promoter, Jerry Hardesty, of the popular Winefest on the Beach that has been held in the Inlet Parking Lot in September for the past 18 years. Many months ago, Hardesty was approached by the North Ocean City Business Alliance (NOCBA) to organize a second wine festival in Ocean City.

This time last year NOCBA was brainstorming ways to draw crowds to the northern section of town to share in the economic benefits that come with events being held in the area.

“They felt they were not getting a whole lot of events in that area, and it seemed like everybody in the city was converging downtown more than uptown,” Hardesty said. “Hopefully, it will be very successful and the people that are coming to the beach will have a special event they can enjoy, and it will hopefully also bring people that would not have necessarily be at the beach and come to the event and go out and shop and dine at the other businesses. That is the goal, to entertain those that are there and to bring new business to the area.”

Last year, Senator Jim Mathias submitted legislation in Annapolis allowing Worcester County to hold three festivals per year selling alcohol to go. Previously, there was only one festival allowed and it was dedicated to the annual Winefest on the Beach.

Senate Bill 1075 authorized the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners to issue not more than three special alcohol festival licenses each year. The bill passed through the Senate in a 46-0 vote as well as the House in a 138-0 vote.

Hardesty explained Wine in the Park will have the same set up as Winefest on the Beach. The only difference will be the time of the year and the location.

“At the end of September, the town is about half full, and in the end of June the town is completely full, so we really have a different opportunity,” he said. “I am hoping the good lord is going to give us sunshine, and other than that I think everything will take care of itself.”

With Northside Park being located on the bay, Wine in the Park will be concluded each day with a sunset over the water, Hardesty added.

“The sun will be in the back of the stage setting, where when on the beach the sun has already risen from the water, so that should be an absolutely beautiful sunset and a picture perfect opportunity,” he said.

This is the first event in Ocean City history to be serving alcohol at Northside Park.

“They trust us after 18 years. We have a good track record. There has never been an incident,” Hardesty said.

Wine in the Park will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday featuring wineries from up and down the East Coast, as well as several vendors offering an array of International cuisine.

Additionally, there will be several arts and craft vendors and several micro-brewed beers for purchase. Popular local recording artists, including “Bird Dog and The Road Kings”, will provide music conducive to relaxation during the days of the festival.

Tickets for the festival are $25 at the gate. The cost includes a commemorative wine glass and sample coupons. For those who don’t drink, general admission includes commemorative wine glass and unlimited soft drinks from the designated driver location. Guests from 13- to 20-year-old are $15 and must be accompanied by a parent. Children under 12 years of age admitted free. No one under 21 years of age will be admitted without a parent. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center. Visit www.winefest.com for more information or for a discount coupon.

“I would like to compliment the city. It is a real treat to work with true professionals who support tourism and special events. They make it real easy for us,” Hardesty said.