PLEASANT HILL -- After several disappointing years, the Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District's annual beer festival seems to have hit its stride.
Although all the bills haven't been settled, so far July's Blues & Brews festival generated about $16,000 in total profit, up from about $4,000 last year. Ticket sales and sponsorship revenue increased, and some expenses fell. After splitting the proceeds with the Pleasant Hill Chamber of Commerce, the recreation district expects to clear about $8,000. The event cost about $35,455 to produce.
This year, festival organizers added a Friday evening pre-event that included a concert, food vendors, and beer and wine sales.
"The Friday went really well and we're hoping to expand it next year and push this to a two-day event," said Katrina Hunn, recreation supervisor for teen programs. Blues & Brews is a fundraiser for the teen center, which opened last fall.
Board members, who last year were mulling over whether to pull the plug on the event, heaped praise on district staff for the turnaround.
"It brings people to the park, it brings families," said Bobby Glover, board president. "We've asked a lot of you and the group going forward and I think you've done a great job. Now we're known for it."
Zac Shess believes the festival has reached a crossroads -- it could remain a mid-sized affair or it could grow into a regional happening akin to the Bay Area Craft Beer Festival in Martinez, which draws a much larger crowd.
"I think we're at a point with this event where we kind of need to decide what we want to be," Shess said. "I think it has the potential to be a signature Pleasant Hill event."
The beer festival is a labor-intensive event -- Hunn said planning typically begins in October. Board member Sandra Bonato said staff members should carefully track the hours they dedicate to next year's festival to ensure that the district is getting a good return on investment.
Blues & Brews began in 2010 as a joint fundraiser for the recreation district and the Pleasant Hill Chamber of Commerce. The chamber took the lead the first year, securing sponsorships and managing the budget. But the chamber was struggling financially at the time and nearly a year passed before the recreation district collected its $6,100 share of the festival proceeds.
In 2011, district staffers took over planning for the event. But after splitting the profit evenly with the chamber, the recreation district made slightly less than $2,000 from a festival that had cost $42,276 to put on. With the chamber in a state of transition last year, recreation district staff again shouldered most of the responsibility for selling tickets, booking bands, securing sponsors and managing the budget for the festival. The district's 90 percent share of the profit amounted to $3,599.
This year, Hunn said chamber Executive Director Ann Luke was a driving force behind securing sponsors.
"We've proven that the event can hold its own and I think people are starting to recognize it and want to be involved," Hunn said.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.