Annual Belgian Ale and Food Festival returns
By Kevin J. Gray
Photo: The Belgian Ale and Food Festival begins at 4 p.m. on July 12 at the Miami Valley Golf Club
Gourmands and beer geeks, take note: July brings the third annual Dayton Belgian Ale and Food Festival. The event features 23 Belgian and Belgian-style ales, including seven from Dayton breweries, and a menu of authentic, gourmet Belgian cuisine prepared by Chef Steve Taylor. As in previous years, the festival takes place at the Miami Valley Golf Club, this year on Saturday, July 12 from 4 – 7 p.m.
The event draws guests from all over the area, but buy tickets early: event organizers deliberately keep the event small to allow for an intimate atmosphere. In addition to the food and beer pairings, guests are automatically entered to win a Florida beer getaway weekend from Bon Beer Voyage and Draft magazine. New this year is a separate raffle with a chance to win the “Holy Grail of Trappist Ales,” a package of 12 Trappist Ales from seven Trappist monasteries, including the coveted Westvleteren 12. If you don’t win the Trappist ales, you can still buy bottles or fill growlers of your other favorites at the end of the event.
The festival is part of a revitalization effort along Salem Avenue in West Dayton, an area dubbed the Salem Avenue Peace Corridor. Jule Rastikis is the owner of ManCo Property Services, a business based in this area. In 2011, Rastikis and others in the area created an action plan with a mission to establish Salem Avenue and adjacent neighborhoods as a safe and prosperous area within Dayton. The Belgian Ale and Food Festival is a charitable event in support of that vision. Dayton City Paper recently discussed the event and the Salem Avenue Peace Corridor with Rastikis:
What is the Salem Avenue Peace Corridor?
One of the things we’re working on is helping to change the perception of Salem Avenue. My business is here, it has been for almost 30 years, and I don’t quite get the stuff people are saying is happening here. The Peace Corridor is a vitalization effort to establish Salem Avenue and its neighborhoods as communities of peace by intentionally cultivating safety, prosperity and quality of life. Part of what we’re doing is, we’re trying to do events that allow people that live in the community to think, “Yeah, this is a pretty cool place,” and also to attract people outside the community. – Jule Rastikis
How is the Belgian Ale and Food Festival connected to this effort?
I’ve been to a ton of beer festivals and I’ve been to Belgium several times on beer tours – I’m a big Belgian beer fan. And I thought, doing something, a unique kind of beer tasting on Salem Avenue would be great because, number one, people say you can’t get good beer on Salem Avenue and, number two, because people say, you can’t do that kind of stuff on Salem Avenue. I don’t think that’s true. So, we got this idea: Let’s do a Belgian ale and food festival. It’s unique. So, we got together with the Salem Avenue Corridor Committee, who said, “Go ahead, organize it.” I hooked up with Mike Schwartz at Belmont Party Supply, Greg Ingersoll at the Miami Valley Golf Club and we started planning this thing and it went off. – JR
Has the event been successful in drawing attendees from all over the Miami Valley?
Attracting different zip codes happened. We counted zip codes there and we had 25 different zip codes last year. So, we did attract outside the community. People crossed the bridge to come, which is exactly what we wanted to do. And I didn’t hear one person say, “I was scared driving up Salem Avenue,” I didn’t hear that. The event kind of overlooks all that stuff. What it proves to me is if you have the right event, people will come. It’s that simple. I know this is exaggerating, but if the Rolling Stones were at Salem Avenue and Harvard next Saturday, all of Dayton would be there. It doesn’t matter; it’s the event that matters. What are you doing? That’s what draws the people. – JR
How do you maintain that energy after the event is over?
Well, the last two years we had a holiday event at the golf club – it was a Belgian dinner and a tour. Last year, we had about 50 people, we sold 50 tickets for that and they were pretty spread out. The previous couple of years, we’ve done the Summer of Abundance event, we had some music events, festivals and neighborhood events. Those were pretty successful. As the Peace Corridor grows, we’re going to keep collaborating with local entities, organizations and businesses to continue doing stuff. For example, Treva Jenkins is working on the Community of Peace Garden, which is going to be on Salem Avenue. It’s going to be a business development that addresses community needs, along with a coffee house, meeting rooms, community space and a labyrinth. With some of the things I know organizations are doing, those are going to be things that will drive news to here, that will drive people here.
The Belgian Ale and Food Festival will be held on Saturday, July 12 from 4 – 7 p.m. at the Miami Valley Golf Club, 3311 Salem Ave. Tickets are $50, $35 for non-drinking and can be purchased online or at the door. For more information, please visit daytonbaff.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Kevin J. Gray at KevinGray@DaytonCityPaper.com.