Archived Story

Festival bringing back beer garden, rides

Published 9:56pm Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Dowagiac City Council Tuesday night approved a proposal to resurrect a beer garden and amusement rides for the July 25-27 Summer in the City Festival.


Amusement rides last appeared in 2004, while the beer tent was dropped in the 1990s.


Kyle Belew, owner of Wounded Minnow Saloon, supported by Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce board of directors, wants to increase attendance among three demographics — young professionals ages 25 to 45, who have not been well-represented for many years; day visitors from vacation resort communities such as Sister Lakes; and, on Saturday, to entice Steve’s Run competitors to return downtown after their awards ceremony.


Representing the chamber were Program Director Vickie Phillipson, President Dr. Tim Dowsett, Kim MacGregor, Jim Frazier, Mary Cooper, Kris Lamphere and Mark Herman.


“They want to add another dimension seen in other communities,” City Manager Kevin Anderson said.


The mayor agreed with the additions.


 “A year ago I had the opportunity to have lunch with a lady in Chicagoland who ran one of the largest jazz festivals in the United States,” said Mayor Don Lyons said. “Over a three-day period, they had 140,000-plus people come through. Beer sales were a huge part. They made something in the neighborhood of $800,000. Basically, they did everything you’re doing. I would like to thank the summer festival coordinating committee for stepping back and taking a look to see what you can do to make it better. I’m glad you did that and did it well.”


The beer garden will be positioned within the city parking lot between Council on Aging’s Front Street Crossing and City Hall at the east end (rear).


As required by licensing, this location provides closest proximity to the Minnow.


Previously, with the majority of entertainment centered at the Haggin-Wimberley bandstand in Beckwith Park, this site brings another high-energy activity to the central business district, allowing merchants on the south end of Front Street to benefit from additional pedestrian traffic.


Bands will entertain in the beer garden Friday and Saturday from 7 to 11 p.m.


Hours of operation will be 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, with last call at 10:30; and noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, with last call at 10:30.


Belew, who brings five years of experience at the Venetian Festival in St. Joseph, will oversee beer garden management. The Minnow’s paid employees, who are TAM (Techniques of Alcohol Management)-certified, will serve as waitresses and bartenders. TAM certification is awarded by the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association. All security, volunteers and paid staff will be identifiable by orange shirts worn for the festival.


Off-duty police officers from the city force and sheriff’s office, as well as trained security, will be stationed at the door and throughout the tent to check identification at the only entrance and exit. Security will insure carry-in beverages are not brought onto the site. Signage will be posted banning carry-in beverages and spelling out the dress code.


The Minnow will make application to LARA (Licensing and Regulatory Affairs) for the liquor license, receiving a physical extension on its current license.


Kurt Cox, district supervisor with the Department of Labor and Economic Growth, Michigan Liquor Control Commission, reviewed the request and site map.


The beer garden will be well-defined and clearly marked. To secure the site, two rows of four-foot-tall interlocking fences Dowagiac is borrowing from Buchanan will be set up with an eight-foot separation to enhance security.


“I know Niles has had very good success with a double fence,” Second Ward Councilman Bob Schuur said. “The problem when we had a single fence was kids passed their beer to other people. I think it’s time we try it one more time, but I’m telling you if it’s not a success, as long as I stay on the council, we’ll never have another one.”


In some instances, buildings will serve as barriers. Fencing will be placed strategically to protect landscaping.


The beer garden will contain two interior lighted, staked festival tents and a refrigerated trailer containing available drinks — beer, wine, soda, tea, water and wine coolers.


Ten portable toilets will be located on the northeast end of the secured area. Ten covered garbage toters will be situated beneath the tent for staff to keep up with cleanup.


A lighted sign placed to the west of the parking lot, near the front of Front Street Crossing, will inform the public as to the location of the beer garden and an adjacent 64-team bean bag tournament from noon to 6 p.m. for players 21 and older.


There will be a $3 cover charge. Tickets will be available in one area, using a ticket booth. All transactions inside the fencing require use of tickets. Wristbands will be used to prove paid-up cover charge.


The Minnow will employ a food vendor inside the fencing to serve bag tournament players and beer garden visitors.


City personnel will relocate 20 picnic tables from parks to the beer garden.


Family Fun Tyme Amusement will provide rides. Owner Bob Halifax brings eight to 10 rides, five to six children’s game booths and three food vendor wagons. The target age for rides and games is 3-12.


There will also be two food vendors selected by the festival.


Phillipson said all four merchants affected by closing the rear parking lot off Depot Drive between Commercial and Beeson streets are willing to work with the chamber.


“At both ends of Depot Drive, we propose signage indicating it is open for parking only,” not through or truck traffic, Phillipson said. “On Beeson Street, there are nine parking spaces and in the lot behind Round Oak there are 35 we’d take down, but they can go into parking all along the white fence down to Division Street. That whole stretch would still be open.”




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