By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
RAVENA — They came, they saw, they drank. And ate and partied.
The second annual Brews, Bites & Bands event was held Sunday at Mosher Park, drawing hundreds of visitors to taste the beer, dine on local cuisine, and party with music bands.
“We are doing Ravena’s take on Oktoberfest today,” event co-organizer and Village Trustee Caitlin Appleby said. “We’ve got the biergarten on the basketball court, we’ve got four bands lined up through this afternoon, we’ve got great food vendors and it’s a beautiful day.”
“It’s a great time to come out and celebrate before it gets too cold,” she added.
Originally scheduled for Saturday, organizers moved the event to Sunday in anticipation of inclement weather. And it’s good they did — there were heavy downpours all Saturday afternoon.
But Sunday dawned bright and crisp and clear.
An estimated several hundred people attended Brews, Bites & Bands, along with a mix of local businesses and non-profit organizations raising money for their causes.
Among them were the Greene County Outlaws baseball team selling hot chocolate and the Ravena Knights of Columbus selling sausage and peppers, burgers and more.
Adults ages 21 and over could head over to the biergarten — a fenced-in area on the basketball court — to enjoy cold beer served by the event’s primary sponsor, Rail to River Brewing. New Scotland Spirits also gave out samples and sold bottles of their wares.
Along the perimeter of the park, non-profits and local businesses sold food, with the number of food vendors doubling compared to last year.
Four bands performed in the biergarten, including Northern Comfort, Flood Road, Double Barreled and duo Stephanie Fansler and Rob Zolner, who grew up in Ravena and are now based in Potsdam.
“We’ve got a good mix of genres,” Appleby said.
The community turned out in big numbers for the event, lining up at the food vendors and gathering in the biergarten.
“I think our community has a really good spirit,” she said. “They want to come out and connect with each other and have a good time. There is a little bit for everybody. If you don’t want to drink, there’s a bunch of families here with kids who are playing on the playground and eating dinner. It’s not a drinking event, but if you want to have a beer, you have to be 21 and go into the biergarten.”
Tracy Douglas, whose husband Steven owns Rail to River Brewing, was co-organizer for the event for the second year in a row.
“We do this for the community,” Douglas said. “We want people to come down and check out our small village and our town, and maybe think it’s a great place to be. We are trying to give adults something to do in the community because we do a lot for the kids, but we don’t necessarily have an adult party, so this is us tipping our hats to the adults.”
Launched in 2022, Brews, Bites & Bands is now planned to be an annual event in the village.
Douglas came up with an innovative way to raise money to put the event on.
“We don’t want to ask local businesses to help us fund this, so every year we are doing a huge raffle for a brewery crawl,” Douglas said. “My husband and I have been to 38 breweries in the 518 area (code) and through the brewerhood, we exchange gift certificates for our brewery for a gift certificate from their brewery. We are raffling it off — winner takes all.”
There were 33 gift certificates of $25 each, and merchandise from an additional five breweries, for the winner. Douglas dubbed it the “Ultimate Kick-Ass Brewery Crawl,” and included gift certificates from breweries as far flung as Catskill and Hudson to Albany, East Greenbush, Cohoes and more, which were awarded to the winner Sunday night.
“After expenses (for the event) are paid off, any profit goes to VFW 9594 here in Ravena, to use as they see fit,” Douglas said.
Also donating to the Brews, Bites & Bands event were Thiele Carting and New Scotland Spirits, and Collins and Sons donated the hay for a photo opp area where families could take autumn-themed photos.