Second Annual ETCP Spring Fest serves up fun with an eye to the future
Metro Spirit’s Second Annual ETCP Spring Fest will kick off at noon on Saturday, March 9, and this year promises to be bigger in every way but the beer line. For those who remember last year’s incredibly long lines, that’s a good thing.
“This year, we learned from our mistakes,” says Joe White, Metro Spirit owner and the force behind Spring Fest. “We weren’t expecting many people for the inaugural event — maybe 500 to 1,000 — and when it came to the beer line, we failed miserably.”
Surpassing everyone’s expectations, nearly 4,500 people ended up attending last year’s free festival — the first ever for the new Evans Towne Center Park — and though White expects far more festivalgoers the second time around, he promises the new, streamlined layout will prevent them from being overwhelmed in the beer tent
“It’ll be like you’re at a normal bar,” he says. “You’ll enter, get your beer and as you exit, you’ll pay for your beer in cash.”
While it might be designed like a normal bar, normal bars don’t usually have the selection of craft beers that you’ll see at the ETCP Spring Fest. Mike Marty, craft beer manager for AB Beverage, says he’s bringing a total of 16, and while the list won’t be finalized until Friday due to the nature of craft beer distribution, he says he’s expecting people to enjoy this year’s offerings, particularly those from Monday Night Brewing and Red Hare Brewing, two Georgia-based craft brewers that are quickly making names for themselves.
Monday Night Brewing had a high profile at last year’s Arts in the Heart, while Spring Fest will be Marty’s first event featuring Red Hare.
Lazy Magnolia, a regional brewer out of Mississippi, will also be there with their flagship beer, Southern Pecan, as well as their high gravity IPA, Timber Beast Rye.
Among others, Marty also expects to have beers from New Belgium, Magic Hat, Shock Top and, hopefully, Chicago-based Goose Island, which recently went national.
While traditional domestics continue to dominate the overall market, Marty says beer drinkers remain curious when it comes to craft beer.
“The craft beer segment of the industry has consistently grown by double digits, year to year,” he says. “And those projections are continuing.”
When White came up with the idea for the ETCP Spring Fest last year, he wanted to keep it simple, not because that made it easier, but because he felt it made things more enjoyable.
“What I envisioned was a craft beer festival with vendors and a little bit of live music,” he says. “My concept has always been to give people a place to gather and let them enjoy themselves. You don’t need all the other stuff — give people an empty field, throw some food and beer there, some music, and let them commiserate with one another.”
White is committed to that vision, so while it’s certainly a family-friendly event, don’t expect lots of distractions for the kids.
“We don’t have inflatables,” he says. “We don’t have goats or chickens or little horses, and that is by design, because that takes what should be a fun time for families and complicates it. All of a sudden, Mom or Dad or both are standing in line with their kid waiting for their kid to be able to get into an inflatable and jump around for five minutes.”
That doesn’t mean families can’t have fun, however. He recalls seeing lots of families at last year’s event simply sitting together on the grass in the park, listening to music and enjoying each other’s company.
Music has always played an important part in the Spring Fest concept, and this year there will be music throughout the day, starting with Tara Scheyer at noon, followed immediately by Ray Fulcher, Smoke and Mirrors, the Derelict String Band, Sibling String, the Henerys and the Robbie Ducey Band headlining at 5 p.m.
Ducey has been playing in Augusta since the early 1970s, but a lot of the people at last year’s event were introduced to him for the first time, which is part of White’s goal. He sees the festival as bringing Augusta-style entertainment options to Columbia County.
“Richmond County has done such a great job with Arts in the Heart and all the different things they’ve done,” he says. “I’m trying to create the same events in Evans and Martinez and Columbia County. It’s like a blank canvas out there as far as annual cool things to do and hopefully one day everyone will know that the ETCP Spring Fest is always the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day.”
According to Columbia County Events Manager Stacie Adkins, the beer line isn’t the only thing that’s been tweaked. It seems the county has learned a lot since that first event last year, too.
“I think it’s more organized now,” she says of park events in general. “We have procedures in place, we have contracts in place and we have fees in place. From a management standpoint, that definitely helps.”
She says March is already filling up with park events and April has something going on every weekend. And while much has been made in recent weeks about the number of so-called Richmond County that are moving to Columbia County — including this year’s Rock Fore! Dough — Adkins insists she’s not trying to drive a wedge between the two counties.
“I think sometimes when there’s something new, people want to try it,” she says. “I think that’s just human nature, and Evans Towne Center Park is a unique venue. There’s not one of that size anywhere else around here.”
Among food vendors this year will be Greig McCully, who will be supplying barbeque he made in a Big Green Egg. Though he’ll make the barbeque off premises, McCully, who owns Fireside Outdoor Kitchens and Grills on Broad Street, says he’ll be bringing an extra large Big Green Egg to use as a warming box.
“We sell everything,” he says. “But we find that the Green Eggs and the other ceramic grills do such a good job, it’s much easier for us to do quantity on those than on something in some cases much larger.
Besides selling grills, McCully sponsors three local competitive cooking teams, so he knows what he’s talking about. He won’t be the only food vender, however. Bird Dog Grille, Fats Café and the Crums on Central food truck will be among other food vendors on site to take care of those festivalgoers who work up an appetite.
And though there will be all sorts of exciting things to see and do, one of the more unusual comes courtesy of Greubel’s Mixed Martial Arts, which will bring a full-sized boxing ring to the park.
“Basically, we’re going to be displaying some of our young talent, including a couple of junior fighters that are really young,” says Mark Greubel. “One is nine and the other just turned 12 and I’m excited to watch these guys fight.”
The fights are going to be live sparring with full protection, though Greubel says that the size of the crowd will give the fighters all the pressures that you associate with competition.
“It’s cool to see it on TV, but when you see it in person, it’s just better,” Greubel says.
Fighters from all disciplines will be showcased, from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and boxing to kickboxing and MMA, and though Greubel understands that some people shy away from MMA, he says the fights will remain family friendly.
“Even though we’re an MMA school, we still carry a lot of the same traditional values that traditional martial arts bring to the table, he says.
Following the ETCP Spring Fest will be the Chicken and Beer at Savannah Rapids Pavilion at the end of April, another continuing Metro Spirit outdoor event.
“We’re just going to continue to try to build events that are our own, that are Metro Spirit events that bring quality of life to the people who live here,” White says.
The heart and soul of this event, however, is the money and exposure raised to support Jordan’s House, the nonprofit White is establishing in honor of his daughter, Jordan, who was killed by a drunk driver last September.
The idea behind Jordan’s House is to somewhat replicate what the Art Factory used to do by bringing art teachers into some of the more economically challenged schools in Richmond County. Over the course of the next few months, a board of directors will be assembled that will manage the fund and establish a framework for the organization.
“We have spoken with several of the principals in Richmond County,” says Pat Williams, pastor of missions and care at Wesley United Methodist Church. “Art funding has been eliminated, and it takes money to have that exposure for the children. Therefore, Jordan’s House is going to set up its own 501c3 nonprofit status and identify the children and see what we can do to get art teachers back in the schools.”
“We’re doing things methodically because this is not something I want to establish haphazardly and then a few years down the road it’s a distant memory,” White says. “This is something I want to be going in perpetuity.”
Among other fundraising events at Spring Fest, area woodworkers will be building small houses while artists will be painting Metro Spirit boxes, something White had planned for last year’s Arts in the Heart but canceled because of Jordan’s death the weekend before.
White would like to have as many people building these houses as possible, so anyone who would like to participate should feel free to contact him direct at 706-373-3636.
In addition, Donnie Thompson, owner of Windsor Jewelers and Friedman’s Jewelers is donating a $1,000 diamond cross as part of the fundraising process.
People will also have a chance to buy custom made juniper discs handmade by White.
“My mother-in-law gave me a wood burner, and I was just sitting there writing Jordan’s House on the different juniper chips I’d already made when my seven-year-old son Lucas said, “Why don’t you put a bunch of numbers on the back and then people can buy the chips and at the end of the day you can draw a number and whoever has that number on their chip can win something big?’” White says.
Though there will be plenty of fundraising, White says it’s important that people don’t mistake Spring Fest for a fundraiser,
“I want to be clear — Spring Fest is a for-profit enterprise, but I also want it to be clear that a large portion of the proceeds are going to go to the fund that I’m completely separate from,” White says. “I don’t want people to think that the money from every beer they buy is going to Jordan’s fund — it’s for-profit — but we’re going to raise thousands and thousands of dollars for Jordan’s House.”
For the First Banjo-B-Que, Jordan was interning at Kruhu, one of the area’s leading creative agencies, and she built a Styrofoam tree, White says, remembering what an important time that was in his daughter’s development.
“We’ll never replicate how Banjo-B-Que looks, but I am looking forward to building this little city,” he says.
Given the fact that he’s just purchased two doors from a 1972 Volkswagen, you can imagine it’s not going to look like anything else you’ve ever seen. You Might Also Like: