TAMPA — There wasn't a sandbar in sight, but with the amount of beer flowing at the first Spring Beer Fling in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park on Sunday few party-goers at the throwback beach bash likely cared.
“Spring Beer Fling is kind of like the opposite of an Octoberfest, where we celebrate the spring beer releases instead of the fall, all with a surf-rock vibe for a really chill day,” said organizer Monica Varner, an event planner with Big City Events. “For our first fling I couldn't be happier with the turnout.”
More than 2,500 pitched beach umbrellas and staked out spots for their beach mats on the Curtis Hixon lawn to sample seasonal beers and snack on items from a hand full of local food trucks. Hula-hoop contests and VIP retro-themed lounges kept the crowds dancing in the breeze, college students jumping off the park's angled walls and several fully-dressed men posing in the water fountains that jet up from the sidewalk. The main attraction, however, were the six surf-rock bands: Surfer Blood, Beach Day, Pretty Girls, The Intoxicators, Florida Kilos/The Heavy Metals and the Johnny Zoom HiFi Show.
“The music is what really separates this from other beer festivals,” Varner said. “It's just as much about the bands as it is about the beer.”
The music reminded Austin, Texas transplant Thoa Ho of the festivals she frequents around the University of Texas, she said, and provided the perfect soundtrack to her impressive run on a mechanical surfboard that caused many a daring dude to wipeout almost instantly.
“In Austin there are always so many events going on, so it's exciting to see Tampa start to get really full calendars with events like this,” said Ho, a Tampa-based acupuncturist who is finishing her doctoral degree at the University of Texas. “It's nice to go to a funky festival like this at home, and to practice the surfing skills I got at Florida International University.”
With an alcohol-fueled romp that didn't end until the 10 p.m. “Lighted Beach Ball Drop Spectacular,” with thousands of LED-lighted beach balls raining over the Tampa skyline, organizers were also sure to keep Tampa Police nearby and bicycles and cabs readily available, Varner said.
“I'm pretty sure all of the rooms we booked across the street at the Howard Johnson are all sold out,” she said.