Organizers of the 15th annual Elgin Brewfest are crossing their fingers for clear skies this weekend, as the event's fundraising component depends on the attendance of hundreds of beer and music fans.
This is the fourth year the Brewfest is raising money for the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin, an organization close to the heart of Brewfest founder Mike Origer.
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If you goWhat: Elgin BrewFest, an annual charity event serving the Boys and Girls Club of Elgin
When: 5 to 11 p.m. Friday June 16 and Saturday June 17
Where: Festival Park, South Grove Avenue and Prairie Street, Elgin
Cost: $5 admission; $5 per drink and cash for food sales
Details:elginbrewfest.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Origer's former business, Prairie Rock Brewing Company, put on the Brewfest for years until the brewery shut down in 2008. Origer is still the event's main organizer, however, and chose to make the annual festival a charity event.
Last year Brewfest raised more than $21,000 for the Boys & Girls Club, funds that are used to support the club's mission to serve first- through 12th-graders in the Elgin community. Event organizer Cindy Penn said 2009 and 2010s Brewfests had "tornadic" weather on the Friday of the weekend, therefore limiting the amount of net funds ultimately given to the Boys & Girls Club.
But ultimately, Penn said, "Any kind of outside help is always beneficial."
"It's an organization that helps kids inside the city and it's important," Penn said. "If you can do something to help the community, to help a good cause, then why not?"
Penn and Origer are part of a four-person organizing team that also consists of Shelley DeHart and Richie Hoffner, who organizes the music for the festival. Though many bands apply to perform at Brewfest, only six will perform during the weekend, including Hoffner's own band 7th Heaven.
Interlaced with the bands' sets, is of course beer. As Budweiser is sponsoring Brewfest for the third year, Budweiser products will be plentiful throughout the weekend. This year, however, the company allowed Geneva-based brewery Stockholm's Brew Pub to serve up cold ones alongside Budweiser. When Origer began Brewfest, microbreweries like his company were the focus of the event.
With a good beer usually comes great food, this year vended by local restaurants Tilted Kilt, Mama Lou's Shrimp and BBQ Smokehouse, North of the Border, Mr. Fullelcakes, and the reincarnated Prairie Rock Grill.
Father/son duo Mike and Matt Lyons leased Origer's old Prairie Rock property at 127 S. Grove St., Elgin and recently opened the restaurant. Origer allowed the Lyonses to use the Prairie Rock namesake so long as they put on four annual events to benefit the Boys & Girls Club. Mike Lyons quickly agreed to that condition.
"(The club) is helping the community, helping the area that really needs it," Lyons said. "That's your future citizens of this town, of this country. If you give them the right breaks, you hope everything breaks right for them."
As a Boys & Girls Club board member for many years, and now an honorary board member, Origer said he is proud to be involved in projects with the organization.
"There are no other types of activities like this for (Elgin youth) to excel in school, work through personal challenges and have a place of their own," he said. "The Boys & Girls Club has the single largest impact of any organization to the city of Elgin, in my opinion."
Brewfest is one of the largest single funding efforts for the Boys & Girls club. Rose Reinert, Boys & Girls Club executive director, said the funding helps to close the gap between membership fees and actual cost of serving the nearly 1,000 club members. Though membership cost for one child is $25 per year, Reinert said the actual cost is an average of $388 per child to meet his or her needs. On a daily basis, she said nearly 300 children participate in Boys & Girls Club programs, either at the central location at 355 Dundee Ave., Elgin or in local schools.
Of the club's participants, 70 percent live below the poverty level, and 32 percent are dependents in a household with an annual income of $9,000 or less, Reinert said.
"The club identifies those with the most need in the community," she said. "These kids are dealing with things like poverty. We create a place of hope and opportunity to support them and their family … so they can become successful adults."
Event organizers hope to surpass their fundraising goals this year to support the Boys & Girls Club, so a $5 entry fee has been instated. Drink tickets are $5 per drink, which includes beer and wine. Food, soda and water are cash only when Brewfest gates open Friday afternoon at Festival Park in Elgin.
For details, visit elginbrewfest.com.