Craft Beer Crawl Made Epic Comeback to Downtown Winter Haven
by James Coulter
After the pandemic forced a two-year hiatus, Main Street Winter Haven’s Craft Beer Crawl Downtown made an epic return to the Historic Downtown district. More than 37 downtown eateries, bars, and shops participated in the annual event, offering various samples of craft beer and appetizers to several hundred participants.
From pinwheel sandwiches at the Ritz Theater, grilled hot dogs at Haven Magazine, and cheese-filled ravioli at ArabellasRistorante Ave Bar, along with a diverse selection of craft beer, attendees could sample a little bit of everything while seeing everything Downtown Winter Haven.
For nearly 14 years, this annual event has allowed both residents and business owners to connect over food and drink. However, the COVID-19 crisis forced the event to be postponed over the past two years since 2019, explained Bailey McDaniel, Executive Director of Winter Haven Main Street.
“Since June, there has been a variant uptick, so a lot of people have been waiting patiently for this next comeback,” she said. “Especially since post-COVID. We are finding that people are waiting until the day to purchase tickets. It is hard to make plans ahead of time when you don’t know how you will feel. So I think people are a little bit hesitant. So fewer presale tickets, but we have sold a ton of tickets at the door. Which is great.”
With the event making its epic comeback on Thursday evening, several hundred people arrived downtown to welcome it back with open arms and empty wine glasses. This year’s sponsor, Bank of Central Florida, was especially enthused to see the event make its return, McDaniel said.
“They have been hanging in with us for a few years while they thought we might be able to have it,” she said. “It is a wonderful partner for Main Street. We appreciate their support and we are just excited to continue hosting this event and keep changing it a little bit, having different venues and new beers that come out every year.”
Attendees at the Ritz Theater could step inside for various appetizers, from pinwheel sandwiches to snack cups filled with trail mix. They could also receive discount codes and schedules for upcoming events.
The Ritz Theater hosts various events at their venue from concerts to improv comedy. They have been participating in the annual beer crawl as a way to help draw in potential attendees to their future events.
“I love it,” Alyssa Harber, Ritz Theater Executive Director. “It is great exposure for all of the businesses downtown, a great chance to open everybody’s doors and get some real involvement with the community, seeing all the good things that are happening down here.”
After a two-year hiatus, the countless people pouring through the doors, as well as combing the entire downtown area, was a much-welcomed sight, she explained.
“It’s not our first time, but certainly will not be our last either,” she said. “I think it is fantastic. I think everybody is on the up and up in terms of wanting to come out and participate in everything. So I think the traffic down here is on the up and up so far. It seems to be a great night so far.”
Meanwhile, Silver Properties shared the same lobby to offer pinwheel sandwiches and promote RainDance Apartments, a new apartment complex with 105 units set to open later this fall.
“We want to get our names out there and we want to get people into these apartments,” said Ryan Mullins, Consultant. “It is a great event. We have 700 to 800 people out here tonight. So it is insane. We have a full house.”