Planning is already underway for this year’s Smith Mountain Lake Wine Festival at Mariners Landing in Huddleston. The resort was named as the next venue for one of the lake’s most popular events in a press release last week.

Mariners Landing will be the newest location in the wine festival’s 32 year history that started in 1989 on the grounds of The Manor at Taylor’s Store near Burnt Chimney. Since that time the festival has been held at Bernard’s Landing, Lakewatch Plantation and most recently at Crazy Horse Campground and Marina where it has been held since 2016.

Chris Finley, executive director of the SML Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber’s three-year contract with Crazy Horse Campground and Marina ended last year. That allowed the chamber the opportunity to explore alternative sites in the region, he said.

“Mariners Landing approached the chamber’s event organizers about the prospect of hosting the 2020 wine festival,” Finley said. “The site was assessed and determined that it was a feasible host location. Afterwards, the executive board endorsed the move at a recent January session.”

Mariners Landing owner Jay White said he was excited to host this year’s wine festival. He said there have been conversations for years about bringing the wine festival to the resort but they ultimately fell through. “It just never seemed like the right time.”

White said he is confident Mariners Landing will be more than ready for the wine festival when it arrives on Sept. 26 and 27. “This is not our first rodeo,” he said.

The resort has a history of successfully holding large events, White said. One of the largest events was the Mariners Landing Summer Concert Series held in 2008. The week-long event hosted artists such as Sara Evans, Lonestar, Blake Shelton and Diamond Rio as well as thousands of attendees.

Mariners Landing also hosts smaller events annually such as the Tom Maynard Memorial SML Poker Run and the Antique and Classic Boat Show and Festival.

“We’ve been fully prepared to host an event of this size for a long time,” White said.

A vehicle parking and boat dock reservation master plan is currently being developed for the wine festival. Finley said plans are to have an overflow parking area in close proximity to the festival with shuttle service running throughout the two-day event. Traffic in and out of the resort and into the wine festival parking will be managed in conjunction with Bedford County, the Virginia Department of Transportation and event volunteers, he said.

The festival will take place on the lawn area of The Pointe at Mariners Landing adjacent to the marina. Finley said the site will accommodate the same number of space for wineries, artisans and food vendors as in past festivals.

Mariners Landing will also provide some indoor space with its conference center that has access to The Pointe. The space can hold more than 300 attendees and provide air conditioning, restrooms and seating.

Those attending this year’s wine festival will also have the ability to stay at Mariners Landing during the weekend. “Having on-site accommodations for overnight stay give attendees and exhibitors who live outside Smith Mountain Lake a variety of options for making the festival a weekend getaway at Smith Mountain Lake,” Finley said. “We’ll be working regionally with local restaurants, retailer and other businesses on ways to capitalize on the influx of visitors to the wine festival.”

White said Mariners Landing is already preparing for large crowds that will see all the available condos booked up as well as any other rental properties in the area. The resort is planning a special package deal for anyone attending during the weekend of the wine festival.

More information on the SML Wine Festival can be found at visitsmithmountainlake.com/sml-wine-festival.