Listen up! & Have a cold one

Big Brews & Blues benefits Diabetes Dayton for its seventh year

By Rusty Pate

The Big Brews and Blues Festival takes place May 21 at RiverScape in downtown Dayton.

The event, which celebrates its seventh year in 2016, has grown and changed, but the one constant has been the reason for its inception.

Big Brews and Blues serves as Diabetes Dayton’s sole fundraising effort of the year. While the name may sound as if it is affiliated with larger national organizations such as the American Diabetes Association or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, that is not the case. Diabetes Dayton is a hyper-local organization that keeps all of the money it raises right here in the Dayton area.

Founded in 1963, Diabetes Dayton offers education, low-cost testing and assistance to those battling the disease. They also run camps for children, offer support groups and help direct low-income sufferers toward much needed resources.

The Big Brews and Blues festival serves as more than just a vital fundraiser and wonderful night out for the patrons, according to Diabetes Dayton Executive Director Susan McGovern.

“We thought this was a great way to generate some revenue, but also to let people know we’re here,” McGovern says. “We’ve been serving the community for 50 years, and I still everyday hear the words, ‘I had no idea you were there.’ I don’t spend a lot of marketing dollars because our dollars go back to helping people.”

According to a 2014 study by the Centers for Disease Control, more than 29 million Americans have diabetes. Another 86 million have prediabetes. Of that number, 15 to 30 percent will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.

The strain it causes on the health care system is immense.

Total medical costs and lost work wages for sufferers of the diseases is $245 billion. Medical costs for people with diabetes are twice as high as for people without the disease and the risk of death increases by 50 percent for those fighting it.

McGovern says all the data continues to rise at an alarming rate.

“What’s frustrating for me is that because it’s looked at as a lifestyle disease, there isn’t a lot of community support or empathy towards working with people,” McGovern says. “There’s definitely a negative stigma around the disease and people not wanting to help or support it. If we could just get some more awareness—that’s not always the case.”


It is no secret that craft beer has exploded in popularity in recent years. In 2015, 4,225 breweries operated in the U.S., up from 3,676 in 2014—an 18 percent increase. There have never been more brewers than there are right now. Tasting and festivals are also on the rise. While that increase in consumer interest certainly helps a festival like Big Brews and Blues it also presents some challenges, according to Kevin J. Gray, the event’s craft beer coordinator.

“One of the challenges about having a beer festival is how to differentiate from other beer festivals,” Gray says. “One of the ways that the festival has grown is now that there are 12-13 local breweries. We have almost 100 percent of local breweries on board. Plus, we have a lot of the harder to find or maybe up and coming breweries from around the state. Dave makes an effort to go and work on relationships with them and bring their beers back. You’re getting local beer that you can get here in town, but maybe you haven’t had a chance to try all the local breweries, you’re getting breweries that maybe you haven’t heard of in Ohio and also the best of what’s available in the American craft beer scene.”

The festival also has proudly dedicated one whole booth to all low-gluten and gluten-free beers, as well as one booth dedicated to all cask conditioned ales.

The week leading up to the event is also American Craft Beer Week and local businesses are offering tastings and specials. Festivities kicked off on Monday, May 16 at Ollie’s Place with a flight of rare AleSmith Speedway stouts. Varieties included regular, Vietnamese, Hawaiian and Hammerhead. The action moves to Pour Haus today, Tuesday, May 17 at 5 p.m. for taco Tuesday. Maine Beer Company’s Pepper, Mo, Weez and Lunch will be on tap. Barrel House will host the American IPA Showcase Wednesday, May 17 at 5 p.m. It will feature a session, a single, a double and a fruit IPA, with a beer from every time zone. Dayton Beer Company will celebrate Ohio brewing at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 19, with brews from Mad Tree, Fat Heads, Jackie O’s, Dayton Beer Company and many more. The week wraps up Friday, May 20, at Boston’s Bistro and Pub with a Stone Brewing tribute night. That event kicks off at 6 p.m. Details can be found on Boston’s Facebook page.


Martin Romie serves as the talent purchaser for not only Big Brews and Blues, but also the Dayton Jazz Fest, Dayton Blues Fest, Dayton Rock Fest and Dayton Reggae Fest. For this festival, he focused on what he called “authentic blues.”

“I look for people that have an understanding of traditional blues—the deeper in the blues, the better.” Romie says. “It becomes more than just a regular gig or show. They actually get involved.”

Jimmy D. Rodgers will serve as the VIP hour entertainment before coming back for a second set at 5 p.m. Rogers is a music lifer from Dayton, growing up playing country and blues music as well as rock and roll in his hometown. He played in blues bands around Oxford in the early 1980s and then with the original Cincinnati Slim and the Headhunters. He has also played with Big City Revue, Uptown R&B, The Soulcasters and Brown Street Breakdown. He currently gigs with his own groups Bad Men On a Mission and The Perfect Storm. Jimmy is best known for his playing solo blues piano and has competed in the International Blues Challenge six times.

Micah Kesselring will hit the stage at 6:15 p.m. At the age of 22, Kesserlring has become a well respected fixture in the Columbus blues community and beyond. He performs “pre-war style” blues as a solo act and with his band. For the Big Brews and Blues, he will perform as a solo act.

“We decided right away, we’re using two solo acts this year,” Romie says. “Normally, we’re doing solo, small band and a larger band in the three slots.”

In 2014, Kesselring appeared at The Cali Blues and Folk Festival in Columbia, South America. He is a five-time semifinalist at the International Blues Challenge and a recipient of numerous awards and musical scholarships. “Preachin’ The Blues,” a track featured on his Log Cabin Blues release, has garnered significant airplay on Sirius XM’s “B.B. King’s Bluesville.”

“He’s really making a name for himself,” Romie says. “He plays slide guitar, dobro and acoustic guitar.”

The final performer of the evening will be local blues legend Shakin’ Dave Hussong. Initially exposed to the genre when stumbling across the radio station WLAC in the late 1950s, Hussong has loved the blues ever since. His early-age epiphany started him on a lifelong journey dedicated to the listening, studying, teaching, feeling and playing the blues. Some of Hussong’s accomplishments include hosting WYSO radio’s Hall of Fame Blues Program for more than 30 years running. He has also served as a feature writer for Vintage Guitar Magazine, drawing from his vast knowledge derived from his company Fretware Guitars, a pre-internet avenue for acquiring and marketing vintage guitars and amps.

Hussong was most valuable in birthing the Dayton Blues Society. He initially headed up their Blues in the School program, which introduced the blues genre of music to local students throughout the Miami Valley by performing and teaching its history. Just recently, he completed a series of weekly seminars at the University of Dayton. Above all, Hussong’s ability to interpret the blues through his vocals and playing skills remain his strongest asset. He will be partnering up with Yellow Springs based Carl Schumacher for this event, with heartfelt thoughts in mind of the recent passing of his longtime friend, Dave Mobarry—original bass player and vocalist with The Senders.

Pause for the cause

The beer and music may be what draws the crowd to the gates, and Diabetes Dayton certainly hopes that is the case. However, it is important to remember the value this event provides to the community. For significantly less than dinner and a movie, patrons will hear some great local music, taste some fantastic local beer and help a local organization that helps local people in need.

While Diabetes Dayton serves many functions, perhaps the most vital is sending kids suffering from diabetes to camp.

“It’s kind of one of the reasons we exist,” McGovern says. “We started to offer camp for kids with diabetes. The camp is as old as 50 years. For a child with diabetes to be able to go to camp for a week, spend the week with other kids like themselves—they’re the same for a week. Everybody’s pricking their fingers, taking insulin shots and counting their carbohydrates. You might be the only child in your classroom at school, but to be able to relate for a week and talk about all those things that they deal with, it’s so important to them. These kids come back every year and as they get older, they come back as counselors.”

Diabetes is a disease that seems to be more prevalent than it should. It is not strictly a lifestyle disease,

“It’s an expensive disease,” McGovern says. “Anything we do is to help people live with that and maintain a healthy lifestyle, so they don’t get the complications of losing their vision, or losing a toe, or losing a kidney. That’s really what we’re about. So, the event is fun, but it has a really important purpose.”

The seventh annual Big Brews and Blues Festival takes place Saturday, May 21, at RiverScape MetroPark Pavilion, 237 E. Monument Ave. VIP tickets grant early access at 4 p.m. and include five extra tasting tickets (20 total). The event runs from 5-9 p.m. VIP tickets cost $50 and are only available in advance. Pre-sale tasting tickets cost $35 and include 15 tasting tickets and are also only available in advance. Gate tasting tickets cost $40 and include 15 tasting tickets. General Admission tickets are $20. A commemorative tasting glass is provided for all tasting tickets. For more information, please visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at

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Reach DCP freelance writer Rusty Pate at

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