SARASOTA -- The fifth annual Brewed Life Beer Festival combined three of America's favorite B's in bringing the Beer, Boats and Bacon Festival to Nathan Benderson Park where hundreds of people enjoyed a sunny fall Saturday for plenty of cold beer tasting opportunities.
Festival enthusiasts lined up five and six wide for couple hundred yards as the gates opened at 3 p.m. An hour into the four-hour festival, hundreds more were still trying to get into the event.
A festival spokesperson declined to speak, but those attending had plenty to say.
Crystal Ward from Lakewood Ranch said she attended last year's event held elsewhere and the festival has become one of her favorite yearly activities.
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"It's a must go," said Ward. "It's well worth the effort. I went last year, too, and I had a blast. When I heard about this year's event on Facebook, I had to come. I love all the choices this festival has with food and beer. There is an abundance of variety. Plus, it's great to support local breweries. What's better than having fun while supporting local businesses?"
The festival featured live music with No Need kicking things off at 3 p.m. More than 80 vendors lined the park grounds offering a variety of craft beer samplings and more than a dozen area restaurants showcased what they can do with bacon.
Tickets were pricey at $45 at the gate and presale VIP tickets sold for $55. All proceeds went to the Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates, which was well represented at the festival, showcasing to an enthusiastic crowd what competitive rowing is all about with the Sarasota-Bradenton Head Race.
With boats streaming across the water in the background of the festival, cold beer flowing and hot bacon sizzling, there were nothing but smiles from those attending.
Tess Lewis drove up from Venice with a group of friends. Like Ward, Lewis saw the day's event as a two-part opportunity. Lewis said it was a great chance to support and promote the arts in Sarasota.
"It's a fun thing to do on a Saturday. Beer and bacon, Lewis said. "It's a fun combination and I'm interested to see what all the vendors have done. I'm looking forward to trying new beer and just strolling around and checking it all out. It's not every Saturday that you get to go to a fun festival like this one."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.