PLAINFIELD – The threat of severe weather Saturday led to the postponement of the start of the Midwest Brewers Fest, but the show eventually went on – ponchos and all.
Minutes before the 1 p.m. scheduled opening, festival-goers waiting in line near the entrance into Plainfield Riverfront Park were told by the Plainfield Police Department to seek shelter in their cars and that the event would be delayed amid concerns of lightning and high winds.
About an hour later, the storm had passed and patrons were allowed in.
But the water didn’t go away.
Near the back end of the festival, as the DuPage River inched closer, event organizers could be seen pushing out parked cars stuck in the mud.
Jon Proulz, a Midwest Brewers Fest board member, said having volunteers, along with beer and food vendors, park their vehicles in the back of the festival was something organizers were “trying out for the first time this year” to allow patrons to park on-site.
“This was our first time doing this. This was definitely a learning experience,” Proulz said. “Despite the weather, everyone’s been in really good spirits. I wouldn’t say everybody, but a good number are in good spirits.”
Kevin Bramwell of Bolingbrook was among those in line who were initially turned away at the gate. Before the storm hit, he and his friends “sought refuge” at Larry’s Diner in downtown Plainfield.
“We ended up at Larry’s Diner and had a beer,” he said.
Despite the rain-soaked grounds, he said he and his friends had a great time sampling from the more than 200 types of beers on site. In all, about 70 different breweries were represented at the event, along with a few cideries and meaderies.
General admission tickets included 40 tickets for two ounce pours, as well as three sampling tickets for the Sam Adams Homebrew Pavilion.
Several people donned ponchos or rain boots, while others – including friends Laura Schilling and Erin Polk – tiptoed across the mud-soaked lawn in flip-flops on a mission to taste their next beer sample.
On the bright side, the rain kept lines shorter and larger crowds away, said Polk, 37, of Chicago.
“It almost makes the experience better,” she said.
Because of the delayed start, organizers initially told event-goers they would extend the festival hours from 5 to 6 p.m. However, Plainfield Police decided to shut down at the originally scheduled 5 p.m. because of concerns about the DuPage River flood levels.
Soon after, angry festival-goers turned to the Midwest Brewers Fest’ official Facebook page to complain.
Proulz said organizers plan to be more prepared next year.
“We’ll definitely know how to put on a better festival next year,” he said. “We’ll know to modify our layout in planning for these contingencies. I hope our festival-goers will be understanding.”
More about the Midwest Brewers Fest
Since its inception four years ago, the nonprofit, all-volunteer Midwest Brewers Fest has raised more than $60,000 for two charities. The nonprofit is the largest single donor to the Plainfield Riverfront Foundation and one of the largest donors to the national organization, Pints for Prostates. This year, the fest added a third charity: Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana.
One hundred percent of the proceeds go to charity and more than 300 volunteers participate during the event.
The event on Saturday also included food demonstrations and beer pairings by professional chefs, and 20 different cask ales – including some made specifically for the Midwest Brewers Fest.