BERLIN – An annual jazz and blues festival will return to Berlin this weekend with a new event and a new name.
On Saturday, May 4, the Berlin Maryland Chamber of Commerce will hold a Jazz & Blues, Wine & Brews Festival on Main Street.
Event organizers said this year’s event is a new twist on the annual Jazz and Blues Bash, which started in 2008. In additional to music, art, food and shopping, this year’s festival will also feature a fine wine tasting.
Chamber President Steve Frene said the music festival will remain free and open to the public, but tickets are now on sale for an unlimited tasting of more than 60 domestic and international fine wines.
“The music is free, like any other year,” he said. “You can come and listen to the jazz and blues bands, purchase food and art from the local vendors and enjoy the day. But the new thing this year is the wine tasting component.”
Frene said officials with the chamber had noticed the growing number of breweries and wineries on the Eastern Shore and for years had wanted to incorporate the idea of a tasting into a festival.
“We thought it would be neat to incorporate that into a festival,” he said. “But for some reason or another, we couldn’t make it happen. No one really knew how to do a wine festival, so we came up short every year.”
But with the help of town officials, Frene said he was introduced to Chad Newberger of Republic National Distributing Company, which worked with the Atlantic Hotel.
“He was the perfect guy to help us do this,” he said. “It was a match made in heaven.”
Frene said the wine tasting event will feature 11 wineries, each with at least six different varieties of fine wine to sample. Those who wish to purchase a bottle of wine can do so at the Atlantic Hotel.
“There will be international wines from Spain, Italy and France, as well as domestic wines from California and Washington,” he said. “People can check in and visit the different wine vendors in each tent.”
In addition to the wine tasting, this year’s festival will feature six acts on two stages, as well as art and food vendors.
“The backdrop of Berlin gives us a distinct advantage,” Frene said. “Unlike other festivals, we have the luxury of having the downtown historic district, with museums, shops and restaurants, at our feet. And you don’t have to pay for anything if you don’t want to. You can simply bring your chair and listen to the music.”
This year’s event will feature performances from the Snow Hill High School Jazz Band at 10 a.m. (Fins Stage), Earl Beardsley & the Heritage Dixieland Jazz Band at 10:30 a.m. (Globe Stage), the U.S. Navy Jazz Band Commodores at noon (Fins Stage), Lower Case Blues at 1:30 p.m. (Globe Stage), Timbason La Original Latin Jazz Band at 3 p.m. (Fins Stage), and Anthony “Swamp Dog” Clark & The Blues All-Stars at 4:30 p.m. (Globe Stage).
Frene said he was excited for the return of the U.S. Navy Jazz Band Commodores and for the opportunity to hear new jazz styles from Timbason La Original.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had anything like Latin jazz as part of the festival,” he said. “I think this will be a way for Berlin to open its doors and arms to the Hispanic community.”
Frene added officials will carry on the tradition of opening the festival with a performance from a local student band.
“It’s a nice feather in their cap and gives them a large audience,” he said. “It’s also a chance for the kids to perform with world-class jazz bands.”
The Jazz & Blues, Wine & Brews Festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 4. A parking shuttle will also be available to and from Berlin Intermediate School on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Route 113.
“It’s a great day of free entertainment, or a wonderful way to sample over 66 different fine wines,” Frene said.
Tickets for the wine tasting can be purchased online in advance for $35 or at the festival for $40. Each ticket includes a commemorative etched wine glass, a lanyard that holds a wine glass and a catalog of the wineries.
For more information, visit berlinchamber.org, or call 410-641-4775.
Frene also recognized event sponsors – including the Giles Group of Merrill Lynch, Atlantic Hotel, The Globe, Fins Ale House and Raw Bar and Bank of Ocean City – for their support.
“We couldn’t do it without them,” he said.