FERNDALE — What happens when you combine people, music, food and Christmas brew with below freezing temperatures on a November day in Michigan? We now know it as FestivALE.
Troy Street in Ferndale was shut down and blocked off in conjunction with One Eyed Betty’s Saturday to host the first-ever FestivALE holiday celebration.
One Eyed Betty’s owner and operator Beth Hussey was approached by the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority about providing a beer tent to accompany the city’s Holiday Hoof obstacle run.
But Hussey had something bigger in mind.
“I’ve always wanted to do a big event. And Christmas beers are my personal favorite,” she said. “It sort of evolved. It started as a beer tent and then it turned into this big deal.”
One tent turned into multiple tents. Musical acts were added. Bonfires were brought in. Christmas trees galore lining the streets. And a giant six-foot skillet serving up hot Tartiflette.
“I’m hoping that’s going to end up being a little of a trademark for us,” Hussey said, who plans on having future big events. “We want to always incorporate the big pan and want people to always look forward to what’s being cooked on it.”
Food stations served up cold-weather favorites like roast pig, lamb and goat while a large heated tent spanned the entire west parking lot of the establishment.
But an outdoor event such as this wouldn’t be complete without beer. Lots and lots of beer.
“My first step was to call Rick at Rave,” Hussey said. “I told him my idea and he got right on board. And he helped broker the deals with the breweries for me. I said that I want rare and unusual Christmas beers and Michigan breweries, so he and I devised a plan.”
Rick Lack, Operations Vice President for Rave Associates, was all-in from the start based on Hussey’s track record.
“Promotion-wise, there’s nobody better than Beth,” he said. “We involved several different Michigan breweries. But the cool thing is she wanted some things that were different and unique. So we gave her some special stuff.”
The “special stuff” Lack referred to included limited small kegs tapped on a schedule. Some of the most sought after beers included St. Bernardus Christmas Ale and Van Eecke’s Christmas Leroy, both located at the Christmas Beer Booth.
“These are two beers being poured that have never been in the state of Michigan,” Lack said. “It made sense because as far as festivals go, it’s always Michigan beer. And One Eyed Betty’s does a great job being a cross section of non-geography.”
Those in search of Michigan beers had to look no further than the beer booths outside from Bell’s, Dark Horse and Arbor Brewing.
Inside One Eyed Betty’s, which was transformed into a pinball hall, was a full on Short’s tap takeover consisting of over 30 normally pub-exclusive beers.
“Joe Short was actually at Betty’s and we were having beers and I was telling him about my plan,” Hussey said. “I told him I would love to have him involved. He said, ‘we’re in’ so I kind of slept on it a few nights and I thought it was perfect. They’re one of the few breweries that can handle a tap takeover.”
Despite below-freezing temps, people made their way around to huddle by the bonfires and make new friends. Workers hustled all day and night to ensure a good time was had by all.
Although Hussey knew this inaugural FestivALE would be trying and she may not end up being profitable, she really just wanted people to have a good time.
“The setup was a nightmare. But that’s the whole point of the first year. You learn what you need to do the next year,” she said. “My staff is a little tired and cold. I knew there would be some hiccups and stuff but so far, nothing disastrous has happened.”
When asked if this would become an annual event, the answer was an emphatic “yes” from Hussey.
Lack also echoed the sentiments of the city and Hussey’s dedication to the event.
“Ferndale and Beth are committed. We knew coming into this it wasn’t going to be a one and done,” he said. “It’s going to occur every Thanksgiving to welcome in the Yuletide. A goodbye to fall and welcome winter. We’re looking forward to growing it for years to come.”