Why Beer Really Is Better By The Lake


I think it’s true what they say… Beer really is better by the lake. I’m not a huge beer drinker generally, and being 8 months pregnant at the time of this event, I was obviously not drinking beer at all, but that didn’t make the 4th annual Lodi Craft Beer Festival any less fun. Despite not being able to drink, I would still consider this one of my favorite Lodi events. Each year the atmosphere seems more and more fun and relaxed. Everyone is chill and all smiles. Plus, even though it’s an outdoor, mid-June event, thanks to the location, the weather is always nice. What a lot of event attendees may not realize is the Lodi Craft Beer Festival is put on by the Lodi Tokay Rotary club. For this year, 2018, they’re looking to net around $40,000 from this event. Even if you’re someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience holding fundraisers, you can figure out that $40,000 is huge amount of money to be raised from one event. It’s a big, if not the biggest, Rotary fundraiser in Lodi. That’s why I wanted to share this story.

JoEllen Flemmer is one of the founding Beer Festival leaders as well as a family friend. Since Lodi Craft Beer Festival is so successful, I decided to chat with her about why her club holds this and what makes this event so unique compared to other service group events. She and Chris Phelps came up with the idea for the Lodi Craft Beer Festival and got the rest of their Rotary group on board for it several years ago. According to JoEllen, this event has been a huge hit from day one. When they started this event four years ago, it was Lodi’s first craft beer festival. “We wanted to bring more people together from the community to make a positive impact. That’s why we have an event like this.” shared JoEllen. “Rotary’s motto is service above self and we believe that wholeheartedly.”  Over the years the event has grown and become something for JoEllen, Chris, and their club to really be proud of. I asked JoEllen what makes this event so special and without hesitation she replied, “It’s the community. It’s really cool to see how happy everyone is. They’re just enjoying everyone’s company. You don’t see people on phones much at all; they’re standing around talking to each other. It’s like an old time picnic almost. That’s what we’re seeing with this event. People are gathering, friends are running into other friends and talking and when you walk through you see people are just kind of congregating and talking. People don’t even care as much about waiting in lines for beer, they’re having too much fun talking to each other.”

Lodi Craft Beer Festival is a really fun event, and that’s one of the things that makes it so successful. It doesn’t feel like your typical fundraiser. People’s primary purpose for attending is to have a good time, and it’s just an added bonus that their money goes to a good cause. This approach is brilliant because it gets lots of people in the community involved in giving back, which is way more sustainable than relying on one philanthropic donor or government program. It’s the secret to their money making success, and I think that’s the way more and more groups are going to approach fundraising moving forward. “I always tell people, ‘Thanks for coming out to the event and you should be proud of yourself because not only did you enjoy yourself but you directly helped our community. 100% of the proceeds go back to the community.’” An event like this gives us, as a community and neighbors, a unique opportunity to invest back into the place we call home. For most of us, we might not be in a position to write a check to a nonprofit for $40,000 no matter how much we love them and their mission.  But coming together as a group, allows you and me to write those big checks, while also enjoying a nice cold beer (or two… or more).

There’s a lot of nonprofits in Lodi who benefit from our love of beer (list below). If you’re wondering if your favorite nonprofit benefited, the answer is that they probably did. I wanted to know JoEllen’s favorite group to give back to and she immediately responded, Lodi Lake. “Lodi Lake is my personal favorite. Lodi Lake is important to me, especially in my business as a mortgage lender. For home values it’s important that the lake stays a pristine, showcase of Lodi. It’s a pretty special place and not every town has a place like Lodi Lake. I think it’s imperative that we keep that upgraded and nice. We right now have money set aside that we’re going to combine to do a large project. The intention is to do it at Lodi Lake. One year we did two tables and BBQs for the area in the back at Lodi Lake on the point. That was something they needed out there so we did that. We don’t know what we’re going to do for sure yet, but we’re going to save up a third year and do something big.”

Local brewer  5 Windows , photo courtesy of  Lodi Tokay Rotary Facebook

Local brewer 5 Windows, photo courtesy of Lodi Tokay Rotary Facebook

I love Lodi Tokay Rotary’s Craft Beer Festival and am so impressed with what a good job they do getting people involved. Like I said, even attending this event super pregnant, I genuinely had a great time. And JoEllen is right, it is the atmosphere that makes it so great. As a family friend to JoEllen, and a fellow Rotarian (although I’m in a different club), I had no idea how much this event benefited the community which is why I wanted to help spread the word. I mean, we’re not even looking at the indirect benefits like tourism dollars that come from events like this and look what an impact it makes! My final question to JoEllen is my favorite question to ask, and that is, if you could change one thing in the world, what would it be? “Oh wow!” laughed JoEllend. “This sounds like a Miss America question so I feel like I need to answer like a Miss America contestant! I would say peace. I mean peace throughout the world would mean prosperity, it would mean people getting help with food and clean water and I think you have to start with peace. Peace within our own community and in our own country. If we could have that civility and peace and spread it throughout the world I think everything else would fall into place.” “I feel like that answer relates to how you were saying something you’re most proud of with this event is community and making people happy.” I responded. “Yeah, it kind of does,” laughed JoEllen. “Doesn’t matter if you’re a  Democrat or Republican, you’re out there having fun and being happy supporting your community.” Because red or blue, we all love our neighbors and nice cold beer. Cheers to Lodi Tokay Rotary for supporting our community with this wonderful event!

100% of proceeds go back into the community. The following organizations have received some level of support for their programs:

  • Giving Opportunities to Our Kids (GOT Kids): purchasing shirts and sweatshirts for children in need.
  • Lodi House: Updating the Suzanne Magnum Enrichment Center training and meeting room. Includes a children's space, computer lab/conference room, and therapy office
  • LOEL Senior Center: Support Meals on Wheels program
  • Hospice of San Joaquin: Pre-bereavement kits for children and teens to help them cope with the impending loss of a loved one.
  • Adventist Health Lodi Memorial: Develop a level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
  • Friends of the Lodi Library: Create a website for increased visibility to the organization.
  • Women's Center: flooring replacement
  • WOW Museum: After school program, Makerspace
  • Lodi Lake: Additional funds for major projects
  • Salvation Army: Hope Harbor in appreciation for clean up help during Beer Fest
  • Scholarships
  • Boys & Girls Club
  • Interact
  • Speech
  • RYLA
  • American Legion
  • Rotary International
  • Polio Plus
  • GREAT (Gang Resistance, Education and Training program)
  • Tree Project at DeBenedetti Park
  • PIE (Partners In Education)
  • Lodi Adopt-A-Child
  • Salvation Army Kettle Kick-Off
  • Lincoln Tech & LUSD Speech Contest
  • Grape Bowl Field House reconstruction
  • Lawrence Elementary Library
  • Mosaic project at Lawrence Park

To find out more about this event or the Lodi Tokay Rotary, click here.