Alice Wilkes had three things to say to the beer-sipping patrons at Dunkin’ Donuts Park on Saturday: have fun, keep those glasses full and please, stay off the grass.
The Hartford Yard Goats employee and city native was stationed on the park’s warning track, where she greeted premium ticket holders — dubbed Very Important Goats — with a smile as they explored the inaugural G.O.A.T Brew Fest. A few extra dollars bought VIG attendees access to the dirt track and the home dugout, if not the manicured field itself, as Wilkes reminded a few fans.
“When I bought my ticket, I pictured myself frolicking like an elk in the springtime,” 38-year-old Steve Morgan of Rocky Hill joked to Wilkes, who just laughed.
While the Yard Goats can’t have dozens of tables and hundreds of people damaging the field, they do plan to open more areas of the park at next year’s Brew Fest, which is already in the works by Ferris Group event planner Kristin Beth Ferris.
She says she plans to bring in twice as many stations — Saturday’s event featured 38 beer vendors with more than 150 varieties — and place some around the track and in the clubhouse.
But there was no shortage of local ales and ballpark views at the first Brew Fest, which raised money for the Yard Goats Foundation.
There were breweries from Branford, Cromwell, East Hartford, Enfield, Hartford, New Britain, Norwich, Pawcatuck, Rocky Hill, Wethersfield, Willimantic and Wolcott.
There were out-of-state offerings, mostly from New England, but also including Avery of Colorado, Ballast Point of California and Kona of Hawaii.
And there were a few non-beer treats, like Jameson Caskmates and flavored maple syrups from Sandy Hook-based Maple Craft.
“There’s something for everybody,” Ferris said.
With about 1,300 people in attendance, it was another sellout crowd for the Yard Goats program. The team sold out 41 games last season, its first in the new $71 million stadium.
Wilkes, a retired accountant and a “goat herder” since April, said it felt good to be back at the park and interacting with city residents and fans.
“I miss the team itself but it’s nice to see them utilize the stadium,” she said. “How often can the community come together and have a good time?”
Wilkes said the past season brought energy and activity to the city that she hadn’t seen in years. With baseball games bringing people in from the suburbs and neighborhoods, Hartford felt more like the thriving city she knew growing up, with its streets lined with five-and-dime shops, department stores and a movie theater.
Katelyn Morgan, wearing a pretzel necklace she’d made that morning, said she’s also noticed a difference since moving to the city 11 years ago.
The 35-year-old watched developers build Dunkin’ Donuts Park from her old office at 20 Church St., the Stilts Building.
On Saturday, she sat on a Yard Goats dugout bench, eye-level with home plate. As her friend Julie Christianson, 35, said, it was the perfect day to enjoy three of their favorite things: beer, baseball and Hartford.
“I think the winds of change are happening in Hartford,” Morgan said. “I think it’s a great city. It makes me overjoyed when I hear people from other states say they’ve been to a baseball game here.”
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