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Huge turnout greets 21st annual Kona Brewers Festival

Updated: 
March 13, 2016 - 1:30am

KAILUA-KONA — Ryan Brentley, sunglasses on, smiling, sud cup in hand, kept a distinct list of priorities Saturday.

No yard work, no errands, nothing of the sort.

“Beer, water, poke, beer, water, poke, in that order,” Brentley said about his mission during the 21st annual Kona Brewers Festival at the King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. “And who can complain about that?”

Judging by hundreds of others who kept similar goals during the event, not many.

Such as Joe Lorenzen.

“So long as it’s cold beer,” he said about what he was after during the event that featured 47 breweries, 94 selection of ales and island cuisine from 29 Hawaiian chefs. “No different than any other Saturday for me.”

The event is a staple for Hawaii Island and has raised $850,000 for around two dozen nonprofits. Besides pleasing the palate, guests were treated to the popular Trash Fashion Show, where runway models showcased dresses made out of — yep — trash, as well as live music. For the first time, this year’s event had two sessions instead of one, with the first one kicking off at 11 a.m. and running to 2 p.m. The afternoon session ran from 4 to 7 p.m., probably more appropriate beer-drinking time.

But for the early birds, too early to drink a beer?

Hardly.

The crowd began lining up near the pier around 10:30 a.m. and was ushered in shortly after. Once inside, it was all anyone could do wait before the taps were allowed to flow.

“Everyone comes up with their mug and we’re like, ‘Sorry, it’s still like 7 minutes before,’” said Linda Hanners, a past festival participant who chose to volunteer and pour this year at the FOTM Brewing Company tent and had to hold off thirsty patrons until the stroke of 11.

They were patient, though, she said, and it was fun being on the other side of the tap. As far as the early shift?

“I think everybody will be in better and better spirits as the day goes on,” she said.

The event started in 1996 to celebrate the creation of the Kona Brewing Company. The festival’s mission is to raise funds and awareness for nonprofit organizations which contribute to the well-being of Hawaii’s youth, environmental conservation, and cultural traditions, while showcasing Hawaiian food.

This year’s event took place the day after its creator broke ground on its soon-to-be $20 million facility on 2.6 acres on Pawai Place near Kona Brewery’s current location. News that the Kona hallmark was investing in West Hawaii when it had plenty of other business suitors was cause for all the more celebration.

“Awesome,” said Ariah Eanchero, visiting from Florida, on the atmosphere. “It’s really friendly. It’s like everyone wants to meet you.”

Said Brentley, “I would describe it as being surrounded by more mirth and merriment than I can shake a stick at.”

The day kicked off at 7:30 a.m. with the ninth annual Run for the Hops 5k and 10k fun run in the Old Industrial Area, a stone’s throw from the Kona Brewery.

Around 600 runners and walkers — 50 more than last year, according to Tina Clothier, PATH executive director — looped around the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area and finished at the BMW dealership where they were rewarded with fruit, snacks, water and, you guessed it, beer.

“It doesn’t get much better,” said Florian Borowski, visiting from Anchorage, Alaska, on the joys of finishing a hot race with a cold one. “It’s a great way to start your Saturday morning.”

It’s a treat in life that crosses generational boundaries, apparently.

Bill Spangrud, 91, won his age group in the 5k.

“I was the only one,” the Waimea man joked about his division.

Nevertheless, he crossed in 57 minutes and 38 seconds for top billing, was greeted with robust cheering, and sipped a sud to celebrate.

“It feels fantastic,” he said. “This is a great place for a race, no doubt about it.”

Then, after the running, it was on to festival, where mid-morning seemed the perfect time to really start celebrating.

“No,” said Kelly Hawthrone, when asked if 11 a.m. was too early. “We were drinking mimosas at 9 a.m. … 8:45.”

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