UPDATED, July 9: Combine a family-friendly venue, glorious weather and a thirst for something different – and you’ve a recipe for success.
More than 1,000 people visited Arlington’s newest attraction, Saturday, July 7, to enjoy cold brews, delicious food, live music and socialize with family and friends.
Conveniently situated in the town center at Whittemore Park, on the lawn of the Cyrus Dallin Museum, the beer garden attracted a steady stream of attendees the entire time, from noon to 7.
“Barely a half an hour in, the place was almost full and everyone seems glad to be here,” noted Steve Norton, an employee of Aeronaut Brewing Co., the event’s sponsor.
Aeronaut President Ronn Friedlander said, “Things are off to a good start, and I’m pleased with how many people are here. I feel excited by and proud of our work so far.”
The park was busy, but not jammed, with plenty of room for people to mill around.
People mingled freely while enjoying their beverages and other fare. They also sat on benches, chairs and the ground. Some brought blankets and had a picnic. Children played toy-toss games. Even the dogs who attended seemed relaxed and happy.
With plenty of trees to provide enough shade, and Saturday's moderate temperatures, everyone seemed comfortable and content.
“It’s a beautiful day for an inaugural event, and families are having fun,” said Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, who was casually dressed.
The backdrop of the event is the Jefferson Cutter House, which contains the Cyrus Dallin Museum. Geri Tremblay, its president, said, “It’s great to see the park filled with families having a good time. I think it’ll be a very popular summer event, and hope this encourages artistically inquisitive people to visit our museum.”
Arlington was considered a dry town from the 1880s until the late 1970s, when alcohol rules loosened. A 1993 ballot question, supported by residents, further eased matters.
Even people driving by on adjacent Mass. Ave. and Mystic Street seemed intrigued. While waiting in traffic, drivers turned their heads to see what was happening in the park.
All walks of life
People of all ages -- babies, children, and adults both young and old -- were there: families, couples and packs of friends.
A “baby group” even decided to meet there, that’s how family-friendly it was. Carolyn Navikonis of Cambridge came with her husband and 9-month-old infant. “We walked here on the bike path, and came over after breakfast at Kickstand Café, because we wanted to check it out on opening day.”
Beer, food and more
Beer, of course, was the mainstay offering. Aeronaut offered five varieties, each $7.50:
Hop hop and away
Summer in Cologne
Beer sales were brisk, yet with several Aeronaut employees pouring, wait times were minimal.
With a variety of brew options, there was something for everyone. Town resident Mark Bowers, Aeronaut brewmaster, and his wife enjoyed Summer in Cologne, a new beer released this season. “It’s the perfect beer to drink outside because it’s light and refreshing,” said Bowers.
Arlington’s Tango restaurant provided the food and nonalcoholic beverages: empanadas, steak tips and rice, along with raspberry lemonade, water and soda. This provider of Argentinian fare also had plenty of customers.
Resident Uri Guttman especially liked the steak tips and rice with chimichurri sauce. “However, we need another food vendor, to have variety,” said Guttman. Alternate vendors are slated to provide food at future events.
Argentinian or other such food options not your thing? No worries! You can bring your own food. One father and son brought in a pizza they’d purchased at a local restaurant.
When entering the beer garden, everyone over 21 received a wristband, enabling them to buy two beers. To purchase additional beer, customers first had to buy food at Tango. The beer and food vendors used the wristbands to keep track of all purchases, ensuring everyone complied with the rules.
Adding to the festive atmosphere were two sets of musical performances.
Local singer/songwriter Ali McGuirk, and Boston Music awards new-musician nominee, was scheduled to perform at 1. However, first-day glitches – sprinklers that had been on until about 11 and electrical issues – delayed her performance until 1:30. But she was an act worth waiting for. She enthralled the audience with her classic soul delivery and unique blend of hypnotic R&B grooves.
At 4, Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band delighted the crowd with their raw energy of avant-garde jazz and funk.
The musical performances were arranged by Aeronaut, which says it is one of the few breweries in the country to have an arts-and-culture department. “We have a strong focus on the arts, and one of our major goals is to shine a light on who we think are the best rising performers in the area,” said Jason McCool, Aeronaut head of arts & culture.
McCool is working with the Arlington Center for the Arts to try and get Arlington bands to perform. “We want to build community support in order to enhance the arts,” said McCool.
Although the Select Board approved the beer garden on June 25, there was considerable controversy before this decision was made.
Arlington residents expressed such concerns as the effect on local businesses, lack of bike parking, insufficient number of bathrooms, trampled grass, events occurring on too many days and that Whittemore Park would no longer be a historic public park.
In response, Aeronaut now offers wristband-wearing patrons discounts at Arlington shops and restaurants; a bike rack, porta-potties, and Adirondack chairs; and reduced the number of days. Whittemore Park is town land that the Select Board controls and is not under the jurisdiction of the Park and Recreation Commission.
Weren’t able to make it July 7? Arlington’s newest hangout returns every Saturday in July, and every Saturday and Sunday starting in August.
June 12, 2018: 3-month weekend beer garden proposed for Whittemore Park
This feature story, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Sunday, July 8, 2018, and updated July 9, to add a photo link and a sidebar.
FACEBOOK BOX: To see all images, click the PHOTOS link just below