Barleyfest plans come to a head Saturday
The 8th annual Lincoln Lager Barleyfest will take over the Smith Center in Merrill Saturday from 2-6 p.m. More than 50 vendors will have their craft beers, wines, liquor and sodas available for sampling.
“This is going to be our biggest and best year yet,” promises Dan Wendorf, Merrill Park and Recreation Director and member of the Barleyfest committee.
Barleyfest attendance has grown steadily, from 180 the first year to more than 600 last year. This year, advance ticket sales are up and Wendorf expects a rush in sales this week.
Wendorf sees Barleyfest as becoming a destination event. Last year’s event drew beer lovers from 56 cities in six different states.
“The neat part about Barleyfest is that we’ve been successful in attracting people from out of town,” he said. “It gives them a reason to visit Merrill in the hopes that they come back. We want people from Merrill to feel like it’s theirs and we also want people from out of town to feel like it’s theirs, too.”
The bed & brew package through AmericInn has proven popular with visitors. The afternoon time slot also gives visitors a chance to explore Merrill.
From the beginning, participant safety has been a top priority. Barleyfest has partnered with Merrill Transit and Blue Jay Taxi to make sure participants travel safely from the event. Designated drivers have always been offered free admission.
“Barleyfest is set up to be a safe craft beer tasting event,” Wendorf said. “We promote safety first.”
Money raised through Barleyfest benefits the Merrill Park Endowment Fund, which provides money for park improvements above and beyond what the city budget can support. Last year’s event contributed $3,000 to the Park Endowment Fund.
Each of the 50-plus vendors, hailing from all corners of the nation, will provide a few different varieties of their products for sampling – that equals an estimated 150 different choices.
“Everybody has their own tastes,” Wendorf said. “Literally any different style of craft brew you can think of, we will have it this year.”
Among this year’s vendors will be the highly-anticipated Sawmill Brewing Co., expected to open in the former DNR ranger station building later this year. Sawmill Brewing Co. will debut their craft beer recipes at Barleyfest.
The event also features live entertainment, gourmet food and prizes. A Kegerator will be given away again this year as the top prize.
Local sponsors play a big role in the event.
“The unique thing about Barleyfest is it’s completely driven by sponsors,” Wendorf said. “I have to thank them for allowing us to do this.”
Tickets will be available in advance or at the door. Advance tickets can be purchased in Merrill at Dave’s County Market, The Beacon, Ballyhoos, the Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce or at the Smith Center; and in Wausau at Sports Fan Radio. Tickets can also be purchased online through the Barleyfest web site at www.llbarleyfest.com.