Gate City Brewfest draws 3,000 to Holman Stadium

Event full of beer, wings and family fun

Correspondent photo by LORETTA JACKSON Russ Sabens fields a bite of popcorn propelled by his wife, Laurie Sabens, both residents of Milton, Vt., as two of their grandchildren, Lexi Sabens, 6, and her brother, Owen Sabens, 10, both of whom who live in Merrimack, enjoy the visit with their grandparents and a lunch of fruit drinks and munchies shared at the fifth annual Gate City Brewfest and Wing Competition held Saturday at Holman Stadium in Nashua.

NASHUA – The fifth annual Gate City Brewfest and Wing Competition Saturday at Holman Stadium in Nashua drew some 3,000 visitors to the home of the Silver Knights baseball team.

The event showcased frosted brewskies and many non-alcoholic beverages from 72 local and regional beermeisters. In addition, 13 world-class wingmeisters competed for prizes. Greasy lips were a cherished accessory for many attendees.

The gates, which opened at noon to lengthy lines of ticket holders, were tended by volunteers from the Nashua Police Athletic League, a community staple when it comes to enriching kids’ lives with opportunities for mentorship and fun. The PAL team’s efforts enabled quick entry for friends, families and hundreds of visitors from out of town.

Event organizer Kellie Oberholtzer, program manager for Nashua Parks and Recreation, said the predictions of around 3,000 attendees was right on target. She surveyed the attractions set up around the grounds of the stadium and smiled as brightly as the sunshine that earlier had cracked through damp morning clouds. She had ample thanks to distribute to everyone for making the day an “amazing” success.

“There’s a lot of people here,” Oberholtzer said. “People drinking, music playing, whole families having fun.This is one of the few brewfests that allow children. A great job was done by PAL in keeping the kids entertained with face painting, bubbles, hula hoops, a bounce house – so many things to do.”

An abundance of thanks went to the day’s sponsors: Cinemagic, Shipyard Brewing Co., and Buffalo Wild Wings were on board. Nashua Community College, New Hampshire Orthopaedic Center and Bellavance Beverage Co., had representation. The New Hampshire Craft Alliance, The Silver Knights and Nashua PAL showed support. A pair of radio powerhouses, 96.5 The Mill and 92.5 The River, had the crowd rocking all afternoon, as did nonstop live music from performers broadcasting from a covered stage alongside the grandstands.

Samuel Chapman, 11, of New Boston, sipped a fruit drink served from a sampling table situated beneath a expanse of blue canopy that provided shade for a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd. Dozens of similar stands and shaded vendor booths lined the circumference of the ballpark’s outfield.

Samuel was there with his mom, Brenda, and his dad, Chris, who was competing in a field game – the Summer Corn Hole Tournament Finals. It is a throwing game that took very good aim to successfully propel a beanbag across an expanse of grass and into a round hole centered on an inclined plank. Sam took another sip of fruit drink and another bite of a golden-crusted chicken wing while his dad threw another bean bag.

“I like the wing tastings,” Samuel said. “The wings are really good.”

Chris Chapman, his dad, agreed with his son’s culinary critique before heading to the field and throwing another round of four beanbags in an attempt to vanquish a dozen or more fellow competitors.

“We’re here for the food, the corn hole and the beer,” Chapman said. “This is our second year coming here.”

Meanwhile, server Becca Laslamme, a Bellavance Beverage representative offered up a chilled glass to Nick Zonna, a barber from Wilfred’s Barber Shop in Nashua. The brew was cold, and he said that he and his friends never would miss the event.

“I come every year,” Zonna said. “They’ve got all the good vendors here.”

Elsewhere, Sara Sheran, of Nashua, and her friend, Gail Mowat, of Stoneham, Mass., crowded into a scarce patch of shade beneath the canopy sheltering the vending table of Lime-A-Rita, a Bud Light progeny instilled with lime flavor and a close kin to Straw-Ber-Rita, Grape-A-Rita, Mango-A-Rita and several others. Sheran said they tried Coco-Nut-Rita and gave it a nod.

Nearby, there was no rest for Katlyn Billings, who scrambled to replenish cans of craft beer from Trout River Brewing Co., located in Springfield, Vermont. She paused only long enough to plunge another 20 cans into a big bucket of ice. They brought cases of their Rainbow Red Ale and their Vermont Single IPA, the “IPA” moniker denoting “India Pale Ale,” a hop-hearty pale variety of craft beer. She couldn’t tarry for long.

“We’ve been pouring a lot of beer,” said Billings, “People love it. I’ve been restocking so often I can’t even keep the ice buckets filled.”

Here and there, friends wore string necklaces beaded with pretzels. The number of pretzel pendants depended upon the speed with which the crunchy twists were consumed. Some who had nine pretzels hanging from their necklace tended to munch sparingly. Others wore bare strings, a limp and dangling tribute to the salty snack and its ability to enhance the taste of cold beer.

Among the pretzel-preppy fashionistas were Kara Kleber and Meghan Kleber, of Boston, Mass., who attended with Ryan Gystill, of Nashua, and Chelsea Christiansen, of Manchester. They all agreed that one of the things they enjoyed was the chance to sample a lot of different beers “in small quantities” that gave the group a chance to experience the wares of a wide variety of vendors.

Meanwhile, Jen and Ethan Murphy, residents of White River Junction, Vt., sat alongside their baby, Ada, 20-months old. The baby nibbled a snack and looked mostly at the knees of people standing in a beer line ahead of her. Ethan said they were there with friends, and he was quite impressed they had found plenty of water and non-alcoholic beverages among the multitude of refreshments.

“There’s something for everybody,” Ethan said.