Thanks For Making The Southern Brewers Festival A Success

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Now that the dust has settled I'd like to thank Chattanooga for supporting the Southern Brewers Festival and making it yet another very successful event.   

For those who do not know - the SBF benefits the Chattanooga chapter of Kids on the Block and the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.  As a partner helping the SBF with volunteers, sponsorships and the overall production of the event - one could not have better or more hard working people from both organizations.  Having worked with Kids on the Block for 10 straight years - from my point of view - this festival would not be as big or as successful without Kelly Williams and her staff.

This year Angie Leach and the CraftWorks Foundation provided a budget to do many things we have not been able to do in past years.  We are now a two day event - a pretty big deal to say the least.  And she provided the talent and production budgets necessary to bring the SBF to a new level.  She also brought Friends of the Festival on board to help us transition into a multi-date event.  They were great to work with and helped me more than I can say.  Thank you Chip Baker, Dixie, Mickey, Karen, Amy, Randy, Jefe' - everyone was phenomenal and helped make the process a lot of fun. 

The biggest thank you, in my mind is to all of us - the city of Chattanooga.  The SBF is a benefit in the purest sense of the word.  Literally 100 percent of all proceeds are donated to local non-profit organizations - Chattanooga's Kids on the Block - a non-profit helping children overcome the trauma of physical and sexual abuse.  God only knows the pain, fear, confusion, etc. this type of abuse has on a child.  Chattanooga's Kids on the Block, covers 16 counties in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.  Sixteen counties - amazing.  The Chattanooga Community Kitchen feeds literally hundreds of people each and every day.  I am willing to bet 100 percent of us reading the Chattanoogan do not have the first clue what it feels like to be truly hungry - or to have no idea where and when we will have our next meal.  Homelessness is, without question, a massive problem throughout our country.  The causes are complicated and not easily fixed.  It's easy for us to conclude someone is lazy.  If it was that simple - the numbers would not be as large and the solution would be much easier to find and implement.  The fact is - the Chattanooga Community Kitchen saves lives and the CraftWorks Foundation and the SBF are proud to help.

Twenty years ago at the first Southern Brewers Festival - Trish Murphy was the talent - performing on a stage right where the Mellow Mushroom now sits.  Slowly the layout changed until the stage found its home in the parking lot next door to Big River.  Rob Gentry began thinking about micro-brewing when we were roommates - where he had a brewing kit trying to learn how to make beer.  Thank God I did not drink - otherwise the swill in those buckets may have caused a slow and painful death.  However - he not only got good at it - he got great at it.  From that came the idea of a restaurant and small brewery combined.  In walks Tim Hennen and with Rob came the first Big River Grille and Brewing Works on Broad Street.  Like his first restaurant - Rob's idea for a brewers festival was a new idea with very little history to utilize for advice.  He made it work.  Twenty years later and another 300+ restaurants under the CraftWorks umbrella comes the 20th Annual Southern Brewers Festival.   

The numbers are not in - but it is clear we have another success on our hands.  And while we sold tickets to people from 41 states - Chattanooga has always enthusiastically supported the SBF.  Businesses from our community have always supported local events and the SBF is no different.  Kangaroo Express was our biggest sponsor and help make the Kangaroo Express Stage what it was this year.  American Stage literally built a customized stage top for us.  Our desire to keep the stage at ground level and maintain the intimacy between bands and audience required some unusual designs in our stage.  We could not have accomplished this goal without American Stage, Solid Rock and the support of Kangaroo Express.   

My point is simple - Chattanoogans supports Chattanooga.  We as a city - get behind events like the SBF - Nightfall, Three Sisters, Riverfront Nights and of course - Riverbend - which happens to have one of the lowest ticket prices for any festival over three days in the entire country.  A tremendous accomplishment given the quantity and quality of the entertainment.  Because of our willingness to put our money where our mouths are - thousands of people and their families are helped by the non-profit organizations benefitting from our city's generosity.  Chattanooga is a great place to live and I'm proud to be here.  And as one who plays a very small role in the SBF - thank you to everyone who came to this year's 20th SBF.

George Parker


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