By Sarah Pridgeon
Instead of a laid-back afternoon meander, this year’s Sundance Beer Festival will kick off in the early evening with a party atmosphere for taste testers to enjoy. The focus will be as much on the ambience as the hops, says organizer Reggie Gaylord, with the taste testing aspect now sharing the limelight with music, dancing and light shows.
“We’re going to try something new this year. We have a feeling that, if we do that that, it will help fill the restaurants, fill the motels,” says Gaylord.
“People will stay and enjoy Sundance. They will still come earlier, we think, and then stretch it out.”
Moving the event to the evening will allow merrymakers to finish up their chores before the fun begins, he adds, which means they’ll be able to relax, settle in and enjoy an evening of entertainment.
BeerFest – along with its sister event, the Sundance Winter Festival – has attracted more visitors each year as the Main Street group works to transform Sundance into a bona fide festival community. The third iteration of the beer festival will still include the familiar taste-testing and food vendors, but will also offer dancing, lights and a brand new attraction: a pedal-powered party bench.
Much like a moving table in appearance, the Black Hills Party Pedaler seats up to 11 people around a bench under the shade of a canopy, eight of them with access to its pedals.
Meanwhile, this year’s craft beer vendors are looking forward to getting in on the action.
“I’ve visited with several of them and they’re coming to put on a show. They’re going to have lights in their tents and so on,” he says.
“With the lights and the music, it’s going to be a whole different atmosphere. Even the DJ is going to have a light show and there will be a ‘dance floor’ part of the street.”
Gaylord is expecting between 20 and 25 brewers this year, including local brands from Wyoming, Hill City and Spearfish, as well as a few new names.
“I think we’re going to have new brewers show up that nobody’s got to try their stuff yet. A few that are trying to get their name out there have contacted me,” he says.
As always, attendees can buy a 4-ounce cup and armband and then try as many brands as they wish from among the vendors on show. A “people’s choice” award will be given to the beer that receives the most votes.
The festival is attracting more and more attention from beermakers, Gaylord says.
“We’ve built this up for three years and now the brewers know that they get a $500 check to be the top brewer,” he says. “The competition is getting there.”
The Sundance Beer Festival will run from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on September 9 in downtown Sundance, covering the same five-hour stretch as always – although, if enough attendees request it, the duration may be extended next year.
Local vendors who would like to get involved this year can still contact Gaylord at Sundance Dillon’s Hardware. The more the merrier, he says.
“Anyone who wants to participate is allowed – we’re more than willing to let anybody play,” he smiles.
“Whatever they think they could sell at this kind of event.”
The only charge for participation is the $10 peddler fee through the City of Sundance, Gaylord says.