Herding Cats Unlimited and Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC) are presenting the inaugural Hemming Park Beer Festival at Hemming Park in downtown Jacksonville on Saturday, August 15, 2015 from 6-9pm. This event is being held as a fundraiser to benefit the Friends of Hemming Park, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Surprisingly, it will be the first major beer festival to be hosted in Hemming Park. While craft brews have played an important role in many of the events that have recently taken place there, beer has never been the primary feature of an outdoor festival in the park. With the inception of the Hemming Park Beer Festival, this omission has been rectified.
The organizers will be prominently featuring over 160 import and craft beers, some of which are being brewed especially for this event. Forty breweries will be represented, including some well-known American craft breweries as well as acclaimed smaller breweries from around the world. In addition to the plethora of fabulous beer, food trucks will be present to sell delicious dishes to hungry revelers. The food trucks that will be there include Bono’s (serving local barbeque classics), Fusion Food Truck (serving tasty Asian fusion cuisine), and Super Food Truck (serving modern takes on American favorites). Pretzels from European Street will also be available for purchase.
In the past year, Hemming Park has become the busiest spot in Downtown for large-scale evening events that draw substantial and diverse crowds. Due to their regular daily programming, monthly programming for events like Art Walk and Jaxsons Night Market, and various festivals such as GastroFest and Pogopalooza, Hemming Park has drawn more than 400,000 people to Downtown for entertainment and commercial purposes since September 2014. Once widely maligned, Hemming Park has become an integral part of revitalization efforts for Jacksonville’s urban core.
While the park is part of the City of Jacksonville’s park system, the operations of the park are overseen by the Friends of Hemming Park. As part of their operating agreement with the City of Jacksonville, the Friends of Hemming Park (FOHP) is required to raise funds in order to receive funding from the city government for operating the park. This fundraising is crucial to FOHP’s day-to-day operations, which include renovating and maintaining Hemming Park’s property and facilities, attracting and hosting events, and providing free public programming. FOHP has a seven-person staff, which includes a social worker from IM Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless.
The Hemming Park Beer Festival has garnered over $10,000 in sponsorships from breweries that will be represented at the event. Sponsor breweries include American favorites Left Coast, Erie Brewing, Full Sail, Southampton, and McKenzie’s Cider, as well as international brands imported through Total Beverage Solution including Banks, Coopers, Affligem, and Moretti. Well known international beer brands Einstök, Lucky Buddha, and Unibroue have also provided sponsorship for this event. EU Jacksonville is a media sponsor.
The event organizers take safety very seriously, so they have been proactive in taking measures to prevent drunk driving by attendees after the event. In order to encourage attendees to bring a designated driver with them, they are offering discounted Designated Driver tickets for $10. Designated Drivers will be strictly prohibited from tasting any of the beers, but they will receive a plastic mug for drinking bottled water and sodas that will be provided to them for free from sponsors Saratoga Waters and Jones Soda. The organizers have also partnered with Uber to provide a special discount code for attendees worth $20 off for new Uber members using the code “HEMMING.” There will be a clearly marked designated Uber pick-up and drop-off area in order to make it easy for attendees to use the service to get to and from the festival safely.
Regular tickets cost $40 and are currently available for purchase online at http://mkt.com/hemmingpark or in person at the FOHP office in the Main Library downtown. All ticket-holders will receive a commemorative mug for sampling beers during the event and access to a Silent Auction of beer-related items that will be held during the event to benefit FOHP. A very limited number of $60 VIP tickets will be available for sale before the event. In addition to everything available to regular ticket-holders, VIP ticket-holders will enjoy early entrance to the festival between 5pm and 6pm and access to a VIP tent with tables and chairs that will include free catered food and special small-batch and small-production beers during the festival.
As a supplement to the experience of sampling unique beers for attendees, there will also be package sale options available for ticket-holders through local merchants Chamblin’s Uptown and Beer:30 San Marco. Many of the beers that will be served at the festival will be available for package purchase at Chamblin’s (outside of the festival) so that attendees will be able to purchase any beers that they may have enjoyed at the festival for home consumption later. Representatives from Beer:30 San Marco will also be present at the festival to take package orders of featured beers for pickup at their shop on San Marco Avenue a week after the festival. As an added bonus for ticket-holders, Beer:30 San Marco will also give a 10% discount on any of the beers from the festival to anyone who shows proof of festival attendance after the event.
The combination of a nice, outdoor venue, fabulous food trucks and unique beers is always effective for bringing people together for a great cause. With such a winning combination, the Hemming Park Beer Festival promises to be a fun-filled evening for the beer-lovers of Jacksonville and an awesome fundraiser for the Friends of Hemming Park.