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2 days ago, 03/26/2015 at 4:23pm

Craft Beer Fest2ndCraft Beer Festival
Comes to Bay Oaks Saturday

Craft beer aficionados, get ready! The First Annual Craft Beer Festival - held last November - was such a success that the folks at the Bay Oaks Recreation Campus (BORC) decided not to wait a whole year to have another one. This Saturday, March 28th, from 1-4pm, the beautiful oak shaded grounds of Bay Oaks will play host to another fun day of food, music and - of course - hand crafted fine beers by a number of local Southwest Florida breweries.

"Bay Oaks is welcoming back several returning breweries from the area to our growing outdoor festival,” said Parks and Recreation Director Randy Norton. "These include Momentum Brewery, Lakeland Brewery, Point Ybel Brewing Company, Old Soul Brewing Company, Fat Point Brewing and Big Top Brewing Company.”

Norton added that festival sponsors Suncoast Beverage Sales will also be providing selections from Sweetwater Brewing Company, Sea Dog Brewing Company, Florida Avenue Brewing Company and Magic Hat Brewing Company.

"New to the brewing scene - Cape Coral Brewing Company - will also be attending the festival, sharing their brews that have never before been released to the public,” he said. "Live entertainment will be provided by the Wilder Sons, a local rock/indie group who have garnered a large following since their formation in the Southwest Florida area.”

The First Annual Fort Myers Beach Craft Beer Festival was actually the brainchild of Bay Oaks' Kyle Karczewski, overseer of Bay Oaks' Social Seniors (BOSS) and Youth programs.

"I'm from Michigan, where I worked in Parks and Recreation, and craft beer festivals are very popular there," he told us. "When I started working for the Town, (Parks and Recreation Director) Randy Norton asked me to come up with a fun way to raise money for programs at Bay Oaks, so I instantly thought of having a (beer) festival here."

Unsure of whether other Florida Parks and Rec departments supported craft beer festivals, Karczewski did some research and discovered they are actually quite popular in the state.

"I discovered that lots of them host craft beer festivals, so then I went to Randy with my idea and he liked it," Kyle told us. "After that, I contacted some local breweries who said they'd be happy to participate."

Like most craft beer festivals, Bay Oaks' will feature small, 2-ounce 'taster' cups rather than large mugs because the idea is to taste the beer, not consume as much of it as possible.

Tickets for the event are being sold prior to the festival online at eventbrite.com for $25, and will be available at the door the day of the festival for $30. The fee will provide ticket holders with a 2 ounce sampling cup that will allow festivalgoers to sample any beer of their choice.

Kyle told us that - while this will be an adult only event - the idea is to raise money for kids programs offered at Bay Oaks.

"We also think this is the perfect way to get those not involved in either our adult or senior programs interested in Bay Oaks," he said. "There are a lot of folks here on the island between the ages of 21 and 60 who may not be aware of who we are and what we do."

Keri Hendry Weeg