The 9th Annual Brats Brews Bands Festival on September 11th, 2021 for Gateway Rotary didn’t miss much of a beat, despite having a 2020 disruption due to the COVID-19 virus.
The annual service project yields thousands for local charities such as the Thurston Food Bank’s Lacey Farm Stand with all-day music, drink, and eating festival in Lacey, Washington.
The 8th Annual BBB in 2019 had 113,070 square feet of space to manage. In 2021, that space was expanded to 198,588 square feet. This helped with retaining social distancing and creating a wider environment for BBB attendees.
Coupled with the fact that the 2021 BBB was held on the 20th Anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Gateway Rotarians prepared to have a program that would memorialize the event properly, as well as offered up a good time for general festival goers.
The 9/11 memorial was held outside the gates of the BBB festival, allowing free access to join police, fire and military, as they provided an honor guard and flag, as well as motorcycle club enthusiasts, to remember those lost in the terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC twenty years prior.
BBB Chair and incoming president of Gateway, Nate Peters said that the footprint changes of the festival were a welcome addition for the event experience. “I am most proud of how the changes we made this year were also solutions to some of the issues we were seeing. We’ve wanted to expand the footprint in the past and this was the year we did it. The event had record-breaking website pre-sale tickets and steady lines at the gate for much of the event,” Peters said.
Current Gateway President Amanda Vey agreed with Peters’ assessment and the addition of the 9/11 memorial. “There was a fantastic energy walking through the front gate and I always enjoy spinning everybody up just before they get into the event. There were also several very positive comments about our acknowledgment of 911 and the memorial component in the wine garden was apparently very moving for several of our guests. I was told people actually stopped, about their heads, set a silent prayer, and then saluted the flag.”
County manager and club member Ramiro Chavez enjoyed his assignment monitoring the front gate admissions. “I liked greeting and welcoming people. Checking for valid ID’s went for the most part very well, I had to turned away maybe 5 people for expired ID, but they understood,” he said.
Volunteers have always been a big part of the BBB’s success. This year, Gateway required double the volunteers, and relied on past club President Len Faucher to assemble an army of over 100 volunteers for the all-day event. Faucher served as chair of volunteers for the BBB. “Gateway Rotarians along with several community friends and leaders spent long hours on Saturday 9/11 to provide another great fundraising event for our community. It shows that when you make out the call, people who aren’t even Rotarians or in your club, but want to impact their community, will step up and help.”
The footprint also required an expansion of porta potties, to 36 in 2021, from 12 in 2019. There were also more handwashing stations due to COVID-19 protocols, and larger music venue stages for the 12 bands that were hired to playing. At no time during the event was every stage quiet, including the two main stages at the end of the night, which closed the show for both country and rock attendees.
“This year’s event overcame many difficulties this year to support the local community through collectively aligned efforts of the community, Rotarians, local businesses, and volunteers,” said Nathan Magee, who chaired the grounds committee for the BBB. “We added additional square footage to our footprint which increased both cost and need of volunteers. Increased volunteer hours by 25%, doubled cost of fencing and sanitation. Best social distance practices were also at the forefront of how to make our customers safe, but also happy.”
A large change from past BBB’s to 2021 was the overall compliance of alcohol serving. The City of Lacey required each of the five serving stations to have a Masters of Alcohol Serving Training certified member present during the entire event. Gateway stepped up, and 18 total members took 3 hours of online certification for their MAST training to ensure that customers were not over-served at the event.
Club member Lowell Gordon, often referred to as the “sexiest man in Rotary,” was excited to take the MAST training: “Another great year at the Gateway Rotary BBB! After missing last year due to Covid, I was prepared this year to pour beer after taking my 4 hour MAST course and am now certified by the state of Washington to be a Beer Server (bartender)! Can’t wait till next year!”
There were 42 total taps offered up for beer and hard cider at BBB this year, 24 of which were dedicated to local brewers, and 10 taps dedicated to hard cider.
By the end of the event, over 305 gallons of beer, 217 of it local beer, were consumed. Over 150 gallons of hard cider, 12 cases of white and red wine, and five cases of hard seltzer were also consumer. All of this was done with the oversight of the MAST permit, which ensured no customer was over-served, or a danger on the roadway to others.
Another club member, Mike Leonard, who received the 2020 Gateway Rotarian of the year award, was appreciative of what he learned during the MAST training. “The 5 hours of training was essential in helping us identify problems, and helped keep our patrons safe. My favorite role each year is pouring beer, giving me the opportunity to engage with our guests throughout the day. This year, each member of our beer, wine and cider pouring team made a commitment to get certified as a Class 12 Mixologist through the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.”
The event also had a hard cider van with 8 taps plumed into the side wall, which was a hit with primarily female customers.
David Bangart, club member and beer pourer, pointed out that what BBB a great event is that service above self motto of each member. “What a great opportunity to serve my community while being part of such an enjoyable event…so nice seeing everyone happy and together having some late summer fun. Thank you to everyone who participated and attended to make this year’s fundraiser such a huge success!”
A large overall component of BBB was also cost-controls performed by the BBB’s beer committee, which monitored which beers to tap, considering on whether the distributor would return the full keg. This created an opportunity for cost savings, which generated $1,500 in returnable beer by the end of the event.
Beer Committee’s incoming chair, Bill Slosson, mentioned that planning was essential. “Planning a party for 1,500 to 3,000 of your closest friends is a chore. We learned from the 2019 BBB that our attendees really liked the inclusion of beers brewed right here in Thurston County, so we made sure to include those locally-owned businesses. The partnership with those brewers was critical in making sure we had beers people liked, and had enough. I think we met both of those marks. 5 local brewers.”
Gateway’s Chair of Membership and operator of the BBB’s wine garden, Shannon Glenn, agreed with Slosson’s assessment. “This year, we were able to provide a fun and safe experience with our larger footprint and added great new things, too! We increased our wine inventory significantly and added cider, which was wildly popular. We also included local food trucks to not only pay homage to our origins in brats, but to accommodate other tastes and include new brat offerings.”
Planning for 2022’s BBB is already underway. A survey was sent out to BBB volunteers and ticket buyers, to ensure that their ideas and advice is taken into consideration.
“I am excited to say we raised crucial dollars that we will be able to use to give back to the many nonprofits in need in our community,” said Nate Peters. “Despite the many changes due to the pandemic, the BBB was a great success that our club will continue for many years to come.”
PHOTOS BY: LAURIE CARROLL