Jul 30, 2018
A storm brewed mere miles off the corner of Bank Street and Alva Place, dark clouds threatening spatters of rain and frequent, accompanied by chilly gusts of wind that, under the right circumstances, could dampen even the best of spirits.
But with cold beers flowing straight from the tap of about two dozen area brewers, and smooth ‘90s rock roaring through the square, the more than 500 attendees of Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District’s fourth annual BEERtavia event couldn’t help but to keep their sights set only on what was brewing a little closer to home — craft beer, and a lot of it.
As the rain rolled in, just before closing time at 6 p.m., they paid little mind to the coming storm, crowding beneath an expansive tent not to avoid wet and impending doom, but instead to fill waiting, and still foamy, glasses with one last blonde ale, lager, pilsner or stout.
Once satisfied, they stepped out into the sprinkling rain, raising their sweating mugs for a final celebratory toast before embracing those last few, fleeting moments that marked all the day had to offer — a little rough weather included.
“I’ve walked around a couple of times,” said Jennifer Gray, president of the BID board, who shouted to be heard over the crowd as she sorted raffle tickets and readied her voice to announce the day’s winners, who would receive a basketball hoop, a keg fire pit and a Coors Light cooler filled to the brim with booze and snacks in just another minute or two. “Everybody seemed to be having a great time. They always stay until the last minute because the band is always rocking.”
As she spoke, the music faded and a small crowd gathered to offer wild applause in support of Radio Relapse’s cover of the Tom Petty classic, “Last Chance with Mary Jane.” Their friends and companions smiled on, vegging out in lemonade-yellow Adirondack chairs emblazoned with the Mike’s Hard logo.
The chairs rested on a temporary turf lawn hauled in specially for the event, while bean bags from raucous rounds of corn hole few through the air and blocks from oversized Jenga tumbled about them.
“One more song or two more?” the band’s frontman asked from his place at the mic — and the crowd of still-dancing, still-cheering men and women held up their hands — they wanted “Five more!” they screamed. They weren’t ready for the day to end.
“The great thing is there’s a lot of people here that are not necessarily from Batavia,” Gray said as she took in the sight. “We’re able to track that through our sales online, so it’s really accomplishing our goal of bringing new people into the downtown. And we know from all the restaurants in the area, when we go and talk about it, that they’ll get a nice overflow into the bars and restaurants around town because of this. So it seems to be doing what we want — to bring more people downtown for retail purposes.”
In the few years since its inception, the event — one of several, like the fall Wine Walk and December Christmas in the City, scattered throughout the year to help achieve that aforementioned goal — has only grown, not only in crowd size, but in its offerings, too.
“We are consistently having the same breweries coming back — and a lot of them already book for the next year as soon as they leave — so it must be good for them, because we’re not struggling to find brewers to come and be here,” Gray said. “We’ve got more food vendors than ever and our loyal sponsors who come back pretty much every year — so they must be getting some value.”
“The BID does these things purposefully for accomplishing that goal of placemaking, of finding a way to bring outsiders into Batavia, and supporting these types of events allows us to continue to do these types of things,” Gray went on. “If the community is supporting that, well, that is always important.”
As she moved to disassemble a folding table and pack up the remnants of a successful day, a crowd of neon-pink-shirted volunteers milled around just waiting to offer a helping hand. They made the day possible, Gray said, and she’d be lost without them.