By Kevin Kelley
If you weren’t specifically looking for it, you very well could have missed it.
Despite the orange mesh fencing keeping it separate from the rest of Bohlken Park, and the red and white tent covering the servers and some of the tables, the first-ever beer garden at Fairview Park SummerFest, held July 13-15 this year, was rather inconspicuous.
Set aside from the main arcade of civic groups and food vendors, the beer garden offered a clear but distant view of SummerFest’s entertainment stage.
Fairview Park police Chief Pat Nealon and SummerFest Co-chairwoman Jeanine Minek both said the beer garden operated smoothly and no negative incidents were reported.
Because alcohol is banned at municipal parks, the beer garden required passage of an ordinance by Fairview Park City Council to allow beer sales at Bohlken Park for SummerFest weekend this year. The ordinance passed unanimously.
SummerFest organizers said that the Fairview Park Municipal Foundation, the organization that actually operates SummerFest, needed additional cash on hand as seed money to prepare for the following year’s event. Costs associated with the annual event had also been rising, Minek and co-chairman Tom Corrigan had said.
Corrigan said beer sales are money-makers at other festivals and would help SummerFest with its cash-flow problems. Besides, he said, some attendees had been requesting beer sales at the event.
While there was no organized opposition to the introduction of the beer garden, some residents quietly expressed their displeasure at the sale of alcohol at SummerFest, Minek said.
SummerFest organizers plan to bring the beer garden back next year, said Minek, who has run the event for two decades. The wife of Ward 2 Councilman Bill Minek said she will not serve as chairwoman for the 2013 festival but will be involved in publicity and publication of the festival program booklet.
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do it next year,” Minek said of the beer garden.
She noted the beer garden was fenced off from the rest of SummerFest, and those under 21 were prohibited from even entering. Police officers working security detail at SummerFest monitored the beer garden, she added.
Corrigan also told West Life he would bring back the beer garden next year.
“I would definitely do it again,” he said.
A 2013 SummerFest beer garden would require council to pass another ordinance granting an exemption to the alcohol ban at Bohlken Park.
Minek said the amount of money the beer garden garnered was not available yet. Adult volunteers from the Fairview Park Youth Association manned the beer taps. The agreement was for that organization to keep 40 percent of the proceeds, with 60 percent going to the Fairview Park Municipal Foundation, Minek said.