In the past decade or so, a culture has emerged around the notion of  summertime festivals. Gatherings of like-minded folks around a single theme for a weekend of fun was nearly exclusively a European tradition. Now, North America is home to hundreds, even thousands of festivals every year.

Markham’s latest addition is the first annual Markham Craft Beer and Wine Festival. It will take over the historic Markham Fairgrounds on Aug. 18 and 19.

Featuring more than 100 wines and beers crafted from brewers across Ontario and Quebec, festival goers will be able to enjoy their favourite boutique beverages and sample many they’ve not yet tried. Not surprisingly, it’s an event for those 19 years of age and older.

“We wanted to create an event that showcased the spirit of Markham to the rest of the GTA,” says Tom Jones, Markham Fairgrounds general manager. “The Markham Craft Beer and Wine Festival will offer a terrific atmosphere that will create wonderful memories for attendees.”

Among the brewers and wineries featured will be Stillwater Distilleries, SouthBrook Vineyards, Second Wedge Brewing Co., Rouge River Brewery, Overhop Brewing, Noble Estates, McAuslan Brewery, HHD Imports, Heritage Estates, 3 Brewers Richmond Hill and many others. 

Since opening at their Bullock Drive location in October 2016, Rouge River Brewery remains Markham’s first and only craft brewery. “(We’re) leading the charge for craft beer in Markham,” says Rouge River co-owner and brewmaster, Jordan Mills.

To go with a fine beverage or two, plenty of gourmet food will be available from many food trucks and local artisan food vendors. Betty Lou’s BBQ Food Truck, Livia’s Food Truck, The Road Grill, Le Chateau Chicken, Jimmy Gauco’s, Hot Dog at the Park, The Gotham Grill and Burner Pepper Sauce will be among those on hand to feed the crowd.    

Of course, no festival is complete without entertainment. The Markham Craft Beer and Wine Festival will feature a full lineup of live music beginning at 1 p.m. both days and continuing through last call.

To help plan your visit, the organizers have programmed Saturday’s music to be mostly inspired and influenced by rock, indie rock and folk music. Sunday’s lineup features country music. 

“A lot of our very good friends are going to be there,” says Birds of Bellwoods lead singer Stephen Joffe. “We’re looking forward to sharing the stage.”

In addition to the Birds of Bellwoods, bands like Before the Flood, Future History, Lost Cousins, Harrow Fair, Monowhales and Reuben and the Dark will share the stage with solo artists, Sagen Pearse, Dani Strong, Pat Robitaille, Sarah Carmosino, Kevin Foster and David Boyd Janes throughout the weekend.    

Veterans of the festival scene, the Birds of Bellwoods’ singer has a quick answer ready when asked about what they look forward to.

“Two of us are looking forward to the beer and two of us are looking forward to the wine,” laughs Joffe. “But seriously, there are some amazing bands playing on this bill. Beyond that, my bandmates are almost certainly looking forward to my inevitable sunburn; I’m like an SPF 5000 case.”

Safety is perhaps the most important point to remember when thinking about attending any summer festival. Sunscreen, staying hydrated and pacing oneself are the key to having a great time.

Tickets for the festival are sold individually for each day and are available for Saturday here and Sunday here. A percentage of the proceeds will help support the Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation. Detailed information for events and activities can be found online here

Photo, from the left, Tom Jones, Markham Fairgrounds general manager; Jordan Mills, Rouge River Brewery brewmaster; Kevin Ker of Epidemic Music Group and Phil Elmaleh of MojiLife Media.