Macon Octoberfest delights Middle Georgians with suds and songs

jgaines@macon.comOctober 20, 2013 

On the last day of the first Macon Octoberfest, the Reedom family, of Warner Robins, enjoyed the music lineup and nice weather on Cherry Street Plaza.

Shelby and Iris Reedom, with daughter Jasmine, sat together on a bench next to the remnants of shrimp and oyster po-boy sandwiches.

“We just wanted to have something to do for the weekend,” Iris Reedom said. The food was great, and she tried one of the 35 craft beers on tap -- a pumpkin spice, though she couldn’t remember the brewery’s name, she said.

“It’s good music; it’s a good time,” Jasmine said.

Sunday’s crowd was smaller than Saturday’s steady flow to the big tents between the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and new Tubman African American Museum building, said Lisa Harris, one of the festival organizers. Smaller tents from Lazy Dog Growler, Dawsonville Moonshine and snack and merchandise vendors dotted the rest of the plaza, while a big stage stood in front of Terminal Station.

“The breweries have had so much exposure,” Harris said. All the featured beers are from Georgia brewers, including Macon Beer Co., she said. All of the festival’s proceeds go to charities for use in Middle Georgia: Central Georgia Breast Care Center, L.H. Harris Ecology Center, Macon Volunteer Clinic and United Cerebral Palsy, Harris said. The Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter, was added at the last minute. It’s getting tips from the long wooden bar built on site, she said.

In addition to the admission price from hundreds of festival-goers, many people gave donations directly to the charities when they bought tickets, Harris said.

“We are very, very, very excited,” she said.

The event grew from last year’s 35th anniversary of the Harris’ Alpine Adventure Trail Tours. Nine musical acts took the stage, including headliner Shawn Mullins, plus a local singer-songwriter contest. Other events included a Friday dinner at the Armory Ballroom and a Sunday brunch with brewers at 1842 Inn, Harris said.

Organizers did a good job of spreading word that all proceeds would go to charities, said Karen Kinsler, director of development for the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter. She and about 35 others from the group donned purple T-shirts and worked the bar.

“There’s lots of beer connoisseurs in Macon,” Kinsler said. “They come in and really know their beer.”

Beyond fundraising, the event gave charitable groups a chance to announce their presence and talk about their services while serving brews to patrons, she said.

“The next thing you know, they’re telling you stories about their experiences,” Kinsler said.

Doug and Kim Evans, of Strawn Brewing Company in Fairburn, said that it was their first festival in Macon and offered a nicer setup for brewers than many in Atlanta. Two of the four varieties they brought to serve sold out, Kim Evans said.

“People really loved our beer down here,” Doug Evans said.

Chris Haborak, of Savannah’s Coastal Empire Beer Co., said that while Saturday’s traffic was heavier, many beer festivals only run for one day.

“This is our first one in Macon,” he said. “It’s been very nice, run very efficiently.”

Macon Octoberfest not only got some exposure and funding for United Cerebral Palsy, but residents of the organization’s local group homes, said Joan Rizzo, United Cerebral Palsy director of development. She looks forward to an even bigger festival next year, she said.

“I think it’s a fabulous start,” Rizzo said.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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