by LAURA KEIL
The first-ever vALEmount Craft Beer Experience was a huge success – in terms of outside visitors, attendance numbers, and reviews by attendees.
Organizer Michael Lewis says approx. 430 people attended the festival (All 500 tickets sold out – but not all event sponsors used their free tickets). The vast majority of attendees were out-of-towners – people who travelled specifically for the festival from Kamloops, Prince George, Edmonton and elsewhere.
Joan Powers, Chris Blower, Troi and Rowena Lafleche, and Justin and Janice Barbour flew in from Edmonton – directly to the festival site. The friends loaded into Blower’s 1965 Cessna for the 2.5 hour flight. Upon landing, festival organizers welcomed them. It was the group’s first visit to Valemount.
“We were excited to take in the festival and generally to explore town and what it has to offer,” Blower says, adding they are already planning next year’s visit and may encourage other planes to tag along.
Blower says the one downside to flying was that, as the pilot, he was not able to fully partake in the festival due to being the designated driver. He says he would like to see a few more non-alcoholic options for those wanting to attend but not drink alcohol.
“We can fly, or drink, but never both,” he says.
The main event was a block-party style party at the Valemount airport. Organizers cordoned off an area roughly 250ft by 300ft and the seven breweries, one cidery and one winery set up along the perimeter. Several food trucks catered to the palates of tipplers. Shuttle busses ran every 15 minutes during peak times to ensure all participants had a safe ride to and from town.
While the weather turned cold as evening approached and a few lightly-dressed visitors headed home, the mood at the beer fest was high until shut-down around 10pm.
Several bands entertained the crowd from the airport hangar outfitted with a stage – the local Blue Syntax, Jasper-based Athabasca Barnburners and finally Shred Kelly, the latter two of which inspired energetic dance moves.
Saturday night was the climax of an entire weekend of fun – on Friday night the Best Western hosted festival brewers for a “Meet the brewers” event. Saturday featured group rides and a BBQ at the bike park which drew 400 people. Yellowhead Helicopters offered $50 sightseeing helicopter rides and following the airport event was a dance at the Curling Rink. Sunday was beer yoga for those feeling spritely or needing a hair of the dog.
The event sold out at the end of May and had a waiting list for tickets more than 50 people long. The liquor license stipulated a maximum of 500 people, which meant organizers could not add tickets, despite demand. Tickets were $40 plus tax for the Saturday event and $20 plus tax for the Friday meet-the-brewers event.
The event was a fundraiser for three charities – Communities for Veterans, the local legion Branch #266, and the Valemount Arts and Cultural Society.
As of presstime Tuesday, a tally of funds raised had not yet been calculated.