LAKEWOOD - Once a year in early fall area residents get the opportunity to enjoy good company, beer, food and music - all for a good cause.
The fifth annual Oktobenefest is scheduled, rain or shine, for Sunday, Sept. 30, from noon to 3 p.m. at Southern Tier Brewing Company, 2072 Stoneman Circle in Lakewood. All proceeds are donated to St. Susan Center.
"What Southern Tier Brewing Company does for us helps us a great deal," said Sue Colwell, executive director of the St. Susan Center. "We've grown to depend on it because of the continued growing need in our community. It's very important because it helps us with our costs. So, we welcome this fundraiser. And, people have a great time."
Pictured are guests at the fourth annual Oktobenefest. This year’s event is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 30, from noon to 3 p.m. Proceeds from the event benefit St. Susan Center.
People have such a great time at the event that Colwell has started to call it a "fun-raiser."
"We like to do things that people are going to enjoy, at a reasonable price," said Colwell. "Programs like this should be fun, and available to anyone who wants to support us. Even if you don't drink beer, you should come have a brat and listen to the phenomenal music."
The music for this year's event is provided by Red Letter Blues, formerly known as Grandpa Snazzy. The band has been a popular fixture of the local live music scene since 2007. The group features 2004 Chautauqua Lake Idol winner, Sue Waite, on vocals, Jim Foti on bass guitar, Tom Swanson on guitar, guitarist and vocalist Karl Lydell, and drummer Julie Morgan. Red Letter Blues mixes original material, blues, Memphis R&B and southern Gospel tunes.
Special guest musicians include Amanda Barton and Bill Ward. They will bring their brand of bluegrass and original music.
"I've attended the event a couple times, but I don't think I've been a performer at the Oktobenefest," said Ward. "St. Susan Center is a great resource, and we're really lucky to have the folks who work so hard and are passionate about what they do. So, any chance that Amanda and I get to thank them in some small way is a privilege to do."
According to Ward, the reason people should attend the event is because Southern Tier Brewing Company is one of the coolest places around.
"I really am proud of what Southern Tier Brewing Company has done in this community," Ward added. "They've set up a model of how a business can be started, run, expanded and succeed. So, you'll be at Southern Tier Brewing Company, the best micro-brewery that has some of the best hand-crafted beer you can find, and you're listening to Americana and blues music - all for a great cause."
Ward and Barton are having one of the best summers that they've ever had in regards to making music and playing together live, he said.
"We're having a really good time with both original music and covers," Ward said. "What we bring is sort of Americana, and of course we bring the tremendous talent that Amanda offers all the time - any time she plays. I get to add whatever I can to Amanda's voice and her instrumental prowess. It's a real treat to be able to deliver this kind of Americana with Amanda by your side."
Ward is also looking forward to playing with Red Letter Blues, he added.
"They are some of my favorite musicians ever in this whole region," said Ward. "Tom Swanson, who I've played with for many years, is really one of the best guitar players that I know. And, Sue Waite is one of the best vocalists I know and probably the best soul singer I know. The rhythm section is legendary as well. So, if you haven't heard them I think you'll be real happy."
Sara DeMink, vice president of Southern Tier Brewing Company, believes the event has grown in popularity out of necessity, she said.
"There are a lot of people in need right now, and we're glad we can help by continuing this as an annual fundraiser," said DeMink. "But, with that said, it would not be an event without the community support. So, it's always great to see the turnout. For the people who have come, the event speaks for itself; for the people who haven't come before, we encourage them to because it's a great way to spend a fall Sunday."
For $3 a beer and $3 a brat, guests get to enjoy live music, the unique atmosphere offered at Southern Tier Brewing Company and the opportunity to rally behind an important cause. The food is provided by Farm Fresh Foods. Non-alcoholic beverages such as root beer and bottled water will also be available.
"It's a nice way that individuals can support St. Susan Center and also enjoy the day," DeMink said.
In 2011, St. Susan Center, Jamestown's soup kitchen, served 95,000 meals to a diverse client base that extends beyond the unemployed and homeless to include young parents, teens, seniors, children and people who are challenged physically, mentally, or emotionally. Additional information is available by calling St. Susan Center at 664-2253, ext. 3, and at stsusancenter.org. St. Susan Center is a community-based nonprofit dedicated to feeding the hungry. Driving directions and other information regarding Southern Tier Brewing are available at southerntierbrewing.com.