Festival season is underway at Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds, and a fun season it is. Located five miles from Annapolis in Crownsville and providing copious amounts of food, booze, music, crafts and children’s activities, it is guaranteed fun for kids of all ages. Additionally, you can feel good about over - indulging since at least a portion of the proceeds from these events generally benefit local charities as well as provide support and exposure to local businesses and artisans.

I have attended two festivals already this season and if you missed them, they will be back next year, so put a reminder in your calendar. First, as part of Annapolis Beer Week, the Maryland Chicken Wing and Beer Festival was held on April 16th. This is a competition which allows winning restaurants to claim bragging rights for the best wings in several categories. A sunny spring day on the fairground lawns listening to great bands while sampling a huge variety of craft beers and area restaurants’ best chicken wings is not a bad way to welcome spring.

Volunteer at an event

On May 8th, I volunteered at the 5th annual Naptown BarBayq and Music Festival, a Kansas City Barbecue Society sanctioned contest. This competition allows area restaurants to contribute entries in categories for chicken, ribs, pork, brisket and people’s choice. While Friday night was largely a weather washout, Saturday turned sunny and glorious and the crowds were large and in great spirits. Bands played two stages and many area restaurants and bars were represented, as were a number of food trucks and craft vendors. Fun for children was assured in a huge children’s area with many bounce houses and activities.

This was my fourth year volunteering at this event and I’d like to encourage others to volunteer for the upcoming festivals. These events require hundreds of volunteers and while you are helping to make the event a success and support the charities which benefit from them, there are also perks for you: close VIP parking, a great t-shirt, free admission and the chance to meet the other wonderful volunteers as well as festival attendees. While my preferred activity is working a beer truck, I have also counted money and tokens, checked ID’s and given out wristbands. Volunteers are also needed for parking, selling tickets and tokens, and other jobs. Visit the events’ websites to find out how to sign up.

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Upcoming festivals

The next festival at the fairgrounds is July 9th with the Nextival Festival. Touted as Maryland’s largest food and truck music festival, it benefits Juice Box Jams Corporation’s mission to help kids and musicians in need through donations to MusiCares & The Ronald McDonald House. This event will have 29 different bands performing for approximately 30 minutes on two stages with none overlapping. Now that’s a LOT of music. And talk about “Kid Friendly”! There are also 16 different shows on the kids’ stage with music, magic and puppet shows all day. Additionally in the kids’ area, inflatable bouncy houses, face painting, art and Lego activities are offered. Best of all, parents, it is FREE for children 13 and under! Scroll below to find a full list of performers.

July 15th and 16th brings the Annapolis Irish Festival. Get your fill of great Irish music as every hour and a half a different band will perform on one of the three stages. Reunite with old Favorites such as Barley Juice and Gaelic Storm who will be closing out the festival and welcome some exciting new additions this year. The Irish Festival has announced a five-member family band out of Canada. This band of step dancers and fiddlers will wow you as members play a fast fiddle and their feet fly as they step dance while playing. It would take me a life time and then some to do either. This is one I’m especially looking forward to seeing. See a preview of this band, Everything Fit, here.

On August 20th, The Kegs and Corks Festival promotes Kraft Beer and Maryland Wines. This year will host more breweries and wineries than ever. Sixteen Maryland Wineries, including Annapolis’ own Great Frogs Winery, as well as 16 different breweries in addition to standard beer trucks will be represented. To ward off the hot August sun, this year more planned shaded areas will be available. So grab a cold one, head for the shade, and spend one of the “dog days of summer” with friends and discover some great bands to follow the rest of the year. Admission of $37.50 includes a souvenir glass and unlimited samplings of both beer and wine. If you need something ice cold, The Fiesta Forever Rita Bar may be your choice for a refreshing Lemon-ade-rita, Straw-ber-ita, Mang-o-rita, Lim-a-rita, or a mixture of any two.

Tips for event-goers

Before you attend the upcoming events, there are some things you should know about most events at the fairgrounds. First, BRING YOUR IDENTIFICATION if you plan to drink. It doesn’t matter if you are bald or have a snow white beard, you will be carded and given a wristband before you can buy drinks, so avoid the trip back to the parking lot. It’s Maryland law….go with it. Generally drinks and food can be purchased only by tokens, which are purchased at booths throughout the fairgrounds. Not having to deal with money keeps lines at vendors moving quickly and keeps everyone honest.

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I like to walk around the grounds first to get the lay of the land to determine where I want to purchase food and drink, rather than to fill up at the first place that smells great and then find something later that I would have preferred. Sure, I could indulge in both and then chastise myself all week, but I’d rather not.

Pick up a schedule so you will know the stage and time to see and hear your favorite musicians. Also, although there are plenty of outhouses, there are decent bathrooms. Locate them. Drink plenty of water. It’s helpful to bring lawn chairs or blankets for watching the shows, sunglasses, sunscreen and maybe hand sanitizer. Except for service dogs, events are generally not pet friendly and of course you won’t be leaving them in the hot car.

There’s plenty to do in Annapolis this spring and summer and a visit to one or more of the many festivals at the Anne Arundel County fairgrounds should be on your list. Hope to see you there. For a complete listing of upcoming events and festivals in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, click here.

Photos courtesy of Christa Rae Photography and Annapolis Irish Festival website; Illustration courtesy of DelMarValous® Threads