Serving Our Community

by Tarn Thompson

Brick City Beer & Wine Festival
Saturday, April 16, 2022, 2-6 p.m.
Citizens’ Circle, Downtown Ocala, FL

The Brick City Beer and Wine Festival (‘BCBF’) was the brainchild of two Ocala-Silver Springs Rotary Club members, Tarn Thompson and James Clardy. The planning started in 2013. The idea was to create a signature charity event for the community at large. An event that could grow organically with the community in perpetuity. An event that each year would identify a program, a cause, a project, a charity or an organization. We defined the selection of such an entity to have either local, historical, or national significance. An entity that needed a platform for awareness or an organization that needed funding to support their cause in the community.

The next step was to form a Committee. The Executive Committee became Tarn Thompson, James Clardy and fellow Rotarian, David Tillman. The event soon became a collaborative effort with fellow Rotarians from the Ocala Sunset Club, Steve Rudnianyn, then President of the Sunset Club, and, Janie Pope, who at the time was head of the” Feel Downtown” project for the City of Ocala. Each Committee member provided unique skill sets to put the BCBF together for its initial 2013 launch.

With the Committee formed, we needed partners. Immediately Neighborhood Storage stepped up and continued to be a sponsor for the next 6 events. Our next partnership was secured by John Hunt, Rotarian, and, President of the then First Avenue National Bank, now CBC, and most recently, First Federal Bank of Florida. This Sponsorship gave the BCBF the necessary funding to execute the event. Adam Woods, President of CBC, continued to foster a strong relationship for the next several years. We also received the endorsement and support of Jim Robertson, Manager of WIND-FM. Jim and Tarn worked on charitable projects in the past. Tarn knew Jim would provide the platform, expertise, and personnel, to make the event successful. Tarn says, the WIND-FM team of Hunter Michaels, Chris, Charlie, and The Night Guy, are always energetic and loyal in their support of the BCBF and the Community, For entertainment, a friend of Tarn’s, Johnny Viola, stepped up and offered the nominal services of his group, R-Style. In 2016, Ocala’s own Steve Morse, of Deep Purple, took the stage with R-Style and wowed the spectators with riffs and stage presence.

The stage had been set. The next task was securing a venue. With the support and guidance of Janie Pope, we negotiated a partnership with the City of Ocala, and conjoined the BCBF and the Feel Downtown concert series, thereby sharing the economic synergies of cost and production. The soon to be venue, Citizens’ Circle, is now the home of the BCBF. The park environment, with splash pad, stage, and production amenities, all located in the heart of Ocala, create an event experience enjoyed by all. The event is unique offering a charitable cause, coupled with an entertainment component, in a park setting, with sound and stage, providing beer and wine tasting, most recently a Kid’s Soda Saloon for attendees 12 & under, all complete with food trucks encircling the whole event. The entertainment portion of the event put on by the City, has seen the likes of Blue Oyster Cult and Molly Hatchet grace the stage. The goodwill and big hearts of many Rotarians, aided by the staffing and support of the City, allow the BCBF event to give all monies raised directly to the organization or charity selected.

Another unique component of the BCBF is how event planning takes place each year. The organizations selected will participate directly in the planning and fundraising, promoting sponsorship and selling tickets along with all members of the sub-committees. Our sub-committees are loose, casual, energetic and passionate. We all come together at the table, to give the best of ourselves, to serve the interest of these organizations, and community because we know it’s right. Operational support and event planning, Leighandra Gibbons, and Deanna Morey, from Tillman and Associates Engineering. Mark MacDonald with brewery and winery vendor procurement. Richard McGinley, Home Brewer’s coordinator. Staffing and personnel coordination Summer Gill, who is a member of Sunset Rotary Club.

It is dynamic to see all these moving parts coordinate their efforts, and professional skills, putting on a professional event, that Ocala can be proud of. The net result over the years has proved worthy of the task and cause. The inaugural year, 2014, the BCBF supported the Fort King Heritage Association, raising $17,000 dollars to seed the venture of building Fort King. The second year, 2015, the BCBF raised over $20,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Marion County, which was used to help renovate facilities. In 2016, BCBF raised another $20,000 for the Marion County Literacy Council, tutoring adults in literacy. BCBF’s fourth year, 2017, the charity was Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection. The Director of Development, Niki Tripodi, was a fireball, working collectively to help raise over $35,000.00 to aid in helping abused children. In 2018, BCBF raised monies for Interfaith Emergency Services. CEO, Karla Grimsley, showed her passion, commitment, and drive, with direct hands-on support. We raised a record of $51,604.21, exceeding our expectations, helping Karla to provide aid and support to over 14,000 families, in need of basic living, health and shelter needs.

As an Executive Committee, when we reviewed the past several years and see what an impact BCBF had on Marion County Literacy Council, Kimberly’s Center for Child Protection, Interfaith Emergency Services, David Tillman challenged all of us to step up our game and commit to make 2019 BCBF about all three charities! After a record number of sponsors and attendees, the event raised $73,500!!

With such success, the challenge was set for 2020. However, the pandemic threw a wrench into the event and forced the committee to cancel both the 2020 and 2021 events. For 2022, we are back in motion to have a hugely successsful event. Save the date for Saturday, April 16, 2022 for 2pm-6pm. We’ve set the bar even higher and aim to raise at least $100,000. With all of us involved in making the BCBF the best event Ocala has, with the biggest hearts, supported by a cast of business leaders, Rotarians, private and public business entities, we believe we can deliver. Be on the lookout for 2022 Brick City Beer and Wine Festival, “Serving Our Community”.