May 17, 2012 | Volume 42, No.20

Beerfest increases tickets 20 percent, sells out

Will Haines be ready for the 20th annual Great Alaska Craft Beer and Homebrew Festival?

Organizers at the Southeast Alaska State Fair increased tickets available to Saturday’s beer tasting from 1,000 to more than 1,250, and the event sold out Tuesday. “We won’t be selling any tickets at the gate,” said Jessica Edwards, the fair’s assistant director.

Fifty tickets were added for the annual Brewers’ Dinner Friday and the 250 total sold out weeks ago.

Last year, the fair offered about 400 tickets for sale at the gate. They went in 10 minutes. About 100 potential customers were turned away and some – particularly out-of-town visitors – became upset.

Edwards said selling out last year may have helped spur festival-goers to buy online tickets early this year. “We put tickets online Feb. 1 and we had strong sales right away,” she said.

The Haines Chamber of Commerce in recent weeks discussed selling sandwiches downtown after the beer tasting to accommodate overflow that occurs when crowds exiting the fairgrounds descend on local restaurants, but this week had scratched that idea due to member opposition.

President Ned Rozbicki said the Chamber would be reminding members of the event through an e-mail. “Businesses are going to be aware. Whether or not they’re going to be able to accommodate everyone, I have no idea… It’s important for the community to roll out the welcome mat and show people we can put on a good show.”

“If restaurants are on top of their game, they’ll create a go-window type program and get food out the door. I hope somebody would do that to fill demand,” Rozbicki said.

Member Lenise Henderson Fontenot last year said she heard gripes from festival-goers about long lines at local eateries, closed businesses and a lack of other things to do during the weekend.

She proposed holding a “street fair” or other event downtown, but said this week that downtown road construction and lack of a “town square” made that problematic.

Henderson Fontenot is expanding hours at her Main Street coffee shop and adding menu items like biscuits and gravy. But a broader infrastructure is important for hosting events of the festival’s magnitude, she said.

“Feeding people, providing restrooms and garbage cans, these are the kinds of foundation that need to be laid in order to have a successful event. I love that more people are coming to town. It’s a great opportunity. With that opportunity comes a responsibility,” Henderson Fontenot said.

Sunday, when southbound visitors are milling about waiting for the ferry, is a good chance for shops to make sales, Henderson Fontenot said. “Sunday is still a full business day.”

Police typically double up on duty for Saturday’s main event. There were no major problems last year, Lowe said. “Both days went fairly well. There was nothing extreme that happened Saturday after the (tasting).”