For nine years, the Wild Things, the Jacksonville Zoo’s Young Professionals group, has been throwing a party at the zoo billed as the “wildest food and drink festival in town.” Indeed, over the years, Brew at the Zoo has grown to become one of the premiere events of its kind in Northeast Florida. Attendance seems to grow each year as does the collection of vendors that range from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse to beers from distributors Republic National Distributing, Champion Brands and North Florida Sales.
To learn more about the event, we asked Melissa Gilleland, Development Officer at the zoo, a few questions:
Jax Beer Guy: How did the festival come about? What was the impetus to its creation?
Melissa Gilleland: The Wild Things – the Zoo’s Young Professionals group – wanted to start a fall fundraiser for the Zoo to show young adults the Zoo is for all ages. That was nine years ago, and now Brew at the Zoo has grown into the wildest food and drink festival in town.
JBG: What are you most excited about concerning the festival?
MG: This year, we are most excited about the variety of food, drink, and entertainment options that are being offered at the event. It’s our largest yet! We have all the local breweries, plus the newest Jacksonville brewery, Wicked Barley Brewing, will be serving their beer in public for the first time. We have over 50 restaurants serving a full menu of samples ranging from shrimp and grits to carnitas tacos to rum cakes and ice cream. Entertainment will include a mix of returning favorites and new bands, like Jacksonville favorite X Hale.
JBG: What do you hope to accomplish with the festival?
MG: Our goals for Brew at the Zoo are twofold. We hope to raise funds for the Zoo, which is a nonprofit, and also raise awareness about our mission of conservation and education. We know there is a segment of the Jacksonville community that is connected to the Zoo through events like Brew at the Zoo, and we want to keep them engaged and learning about the Zoo as a place to learn and have fun.
JBG: How will the proceeds from the festival be used?
MG: Proceeds from the event go towards general operating support for the Zoo, which funds the care and feeding of our animals and plants, our conservation initiatives, and our education programs. Last year we raised over $100,000, and we’re well on the way to exceeding that this year!
JBG: What is your vision for the future of this festival and other beer festivals that may take place at the zoo in the future?
MG: We want to continue to engage a younger generation of Zoo supporters, who will hopefully become involved in the Zoo’s future. We want to promote the Zoo as a place that is not only for kids, but can also be enjoyed by adults. The Wild Things are a great example of a group of young adults who are involved with the Zoo.
Tickets for Brew at the Zoo are $55 for zoo members and $65 for non-members. Designated driver tickets are $30. They may be purchased at: http://www.jacksonvillezoo.org/brewatthezoo.
Remember to party responsibly, do not drink and drive. You can receive a $20 credit for your first ride with Uber by simply using the promo code “l2jkr” when you register for UBER. Click HERE to sign up now or go to your phone’s app store.