Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Cool Jazz, Chill Wines: Jazz and Wine Festival celebrates 10 years of music, fruit and fun.

Screenshot 2016-08-24 17.13.41In 10 years, a lot can change.

For instance, 10 years ago, the local wine scene around Harrisburg was a ghost of what it is now. Wineries like Broad Mountain Vineyard, Spring Gate Vineyard and the Vineyard at Hershey were mere dreams—maybe not even that.

But, this month, all three will be on hand to help the Dauphin County Jazz and Wine Festival celebrate its 10th anniversary.

“It is a natural fit,” said Jason Reimer, president of the Vineyard at Hershey. “The best wineries within 30 minutes of Hershey and Harrisburg are coming together in one venue to celebrate music and community.”

In all, eight area wineries will join 11 national acts, 13 bands and two stages for the three-day festival, Sept. 9 to 11, in historic Fort Hunter Park.

This may be the greatest change over the festival’s 10 years. In the beginning, the wine took a backseat to the music. However, with the growth of the local wine scene, the two now share about equal billing.


Best Venue

The festival began in 2006, when the Dauphin County commissioners asked the county Parks and Recreation Department to get more involved in tourism.

Director Carl Dickson and Program Director Lawrence Moore Jr. led a team to “create events that would add quality of life, build diverse audiences with events at moderate admission prices,” Moore said.

From that effort, the Jazz and Wine Festival was born.

Since then, county officials have traveled to jazz festivals all over the region, including to the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival, one of the biggest such festivals in the world. They work to build relationships with vendors, promoters and wineries, Moore said.

Wine-wise, the turning point may have been the formation a few years ago of the Hershey Harrisburg Wine Country. Afterwards, the parks department asked the group to become involved in the festival, and all wineries now are local to central PA, Reimer said. Until that time, participating wineries often came from much farther away, from such places as Bucks and Clearfield counties.

“There is no place we would rather be that weekend,” Reimer said.

He believes the success of the festival comes from the combination of internationally acclaimed jazz artists, handcrafted local wines and “one of the best venues to enjoy a day in central PA.”

The music, as always, will be world class, this year featuring such national acts as Dr. Lonnie Smith, Peter White and Spur of the Moment on the mainstage. Local musicians will take to the second stage courtesy of the Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz.

An event that was originally created to attract tourism from within the region now brings visitors from all over the country, said Moore, adding that the economic impact from the festival totals almost $1 million.

The Jazz and Wine Festival has been featured in Smooth Jazz Magazine, based out of California, as one of the best events in the country. Over the years, it has attracted guests from as far away as Florida and Colorado, Moore said.

The festival has something for everyone who visits throughout the weekend, said Dauphin County Commissioner George Hartwick

“You don’t need to travel far—or spend a lot of money—to see outstanding live entertainment,” he said.

A weekend pass is $30 in advance and $40 on the day of the festival. There is no entry fee for children age 12 and under. Tickets are available online, at local outlets and through the Parks and Recreation Department.

Visitors may bring blankets, lawn chairs and picnic baskets, which will be checked upon entry to ensure that no outside alcohol is brought into the venue. Gates open at 5 p.m. on Friday and 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Be warned that the weather can still be plenty warm in early September, so prepare accordingly. Reimer, though, has the perfect solution—a cool glass of his vineyard’s unoaked chardonnay.

“It is the perfect wine to sip on while outside enjoying live music,” he said


The Dauphin County Jazz and Wine Festival takes place Sept. 9 to 11 at Fort Hunter Park, 5300 N. Front St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit or call 717-599-5188.

Author: Courtney Gontz


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