A beer and wine license for this year’s National Folk Festival has been approved without the political drama seen prior to the two previous events in 2018 and 2019.
The Wicomico County Board of Licenses Commissioners approved the license for the three-day festival without any discussion or dissent, according to Salisbury Mayor Jake Day.
Three years ago, Day and other city leaders believed the board members were dragging their feet in approving the license for the festival’s first year in Salisbury, so the city went to Gov. Larry Hogan and then to Comptroller Peter Franchot whose office ultimately signed off on the license.
The city followed the same procedure in 2019 by bypassing the county board and seeking a license directly from the Comptroller’s Office. That action resulted in a letter from the late County Executive Bob Culver to Senate President Mike Miller claiming the city and state acted illegally. Culver’s letter prompted a strongly worded reply from Len Foxwell, who wasFranchot’s Chief of Staff at the time.
Foxwell accused Culver of trying to sabotage the festival in a letter that was copied to members of the news media.
While he wasn’t able to stop the license, Culver ordered that the Government Office Building and Wicomico County Courthouse be roped off to prevent festival attendees from carrying beer or wine onto county property.
The brouhaha eventually led to the restructuring of the county’s liquor licensing board as a compromise between Salisbury and Wicomico County leaders after the city sought to create its own licensing board – a move that created controversy and didn’t have the full support of the Eastern Shore Delegation.
Salisbury officials had been considering establishing a city liquor licensing board for a few years, but it was put on the fast track after Culver publicly questioned how the license was granted for the Folk Festival.
Under the compromise legislation that was adopted in 2020, the Wicomico County Board of Licenses Commissioners was expanded from three to five members, all of whom are appointed by the governor.
This year’s National Folk Festival will be held Sept. 10-12 in Downtown Salisbury. The city has hosted the event in 2018 and 2019 and will host it once more this year before it moves to another city.
Folk Festival organizers have said that visitors can expect to see a scaled-down event as the city emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.
There will be three stages instead of the seven seen in 2018 and 2019, but organizers are promising a “very full lineup” for the festival.
Stages will be located on North Division Street near the Government Office Building, in Lot 1 by the library and on Carroll Street opposite TidalHealth Peninsula Regional.
In addition to the stage performances, the festival will offer special family and Maryland folklife programming, and diverse food and beverage offerings.
Last year’s festival was canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic which shut down most of the state and country.