Music. Wine. Nature.
On a warm, early summer day, that combination can be fun, peaceful, relaxing—pick your adjective. And, most importantly, it’s one that can be enjoyed this month near the banks of the Susquehanna River.
For a 12th year, the Dauphin County Music & Wine Festival returns to Fort Hunter Park, this time stretching into a two-day celebration, with the music portion tweaked to emphasize country performers.
“This year, we’re putting a new twist on one of our most popular festivals and going country,” affirmed Jeff Haste, chairman of the county board of commissioners.
Scheduled musicians include recording artists Jay Allen and Josh Gracin. Allen is known for the song “Blank Stare,” which he wrote about his late mother who had Alzheimer’s disease. Gracin initially gained fame as a second-season finalist on television’s “American Idol” competition.
“Looking forward to playing the Dauphin County Music & Wine Festival,” Gracin said last month. “The PA crowd is always a high-energy crowd.”
Other scheduled performers include Chapel Hill Country Band, a Harrisburg country-rock cover ensemble; The Flat Wheels, native Perry County folk-rockers now based in Carlisle; and the Jess Zimmerman Band, country hard rock recording artists from Fayette County.
Also taking the weekend stage are central Pennsylvania’s Make Mine Country Band performing a self-described mix of classic country, old rock and roll, blues and gospel; country/pop artist Dion Pride, son of Country Music Hall of Fame’s Charley Pride; and Ward Hayden & The Outliers, a Johnny Cash-esque ensemble from Boston.
As the name of the festival implies, music is only half the story. Each year, the event attracts some of the best wineries in central Pennsylvania. Guests can enjoy five free samples, and bottles and cases will be available for sale.
This year’s participants include area wineries Armstrong Valley Vineyard & Winery, Broad Mountain Vineyard, Four Springs Winery, J&P Winery, Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery, Nissley Vineyards, Spring Gate Vineyard and the Vineyard at Hershey.
If you’re hungry, food vendors will offer a variety of fare, and craft artisans will have wares for sale. And, if wine isn’t your drink of choice, two local craft brewers will have beer available for purchase.
Dean Miller, an owner of Armstrong Valley Winery, said that his Halifax-based business has participated in the yearly festival “many times.”
“We like it because it’s local,” Miller said. “Lots of people go there, so it’s great exposure for us. We also like supporting the local businesses and Dauphin County Parks and Recreation.”
Michelle McKeown, assistant program director for Dauphin County Parks and Recreation, said that the annual festival has become more than a local event. It’s also become a tourist attraction, with many out-of-towners venturing to the Harrisburg area.
“We’ve seen an uptick of people coming to this [festival] from outside of the area,” she said.
McKeown cited visitors from places like Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Haste agreed that the county’s events have become an economic driver.
“Our summer concert series, including Music & Wine, not only showcases our beautiful parks but also brings a big economic boost to the region,” he said.
The Dauphin County Music & Wine Festival takes place June 8 and 9 at Fort Hunter Park, 5300 N. Front St., Harrisburg. Gates open at 3 p.m. each day. Weekend passes cost $35 in advance and $45 at the door. Patrons can bring their own coolers, picnic baskets and lawn chairs, but outside alcohol is not permitted. For more information, visit www.dauphincounty.org and www.forthunter.org.