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FORT MEADE, Md. – With more than 80 breweries pouring up thousands of gallons of their craft for unlimited samplings, the first question may be where should one begin?
Actually, the more important question for those standing in line would be where they’ll finish their night?
Without an individual’s foresight and commitment, each gulp of foamy fermentation might turn their experience from a kaleidoscope of blurring bright stadium lights and fist-pumping music of a disc jockey into the piercing flash of alternating red and blue and the screaming siren of a police car.
More than 3,000 beer guzzlers partook in the enticing offer while testing the integrity of their return plans during the 2015 D.C. Beer Festival at the Washington Nationals Stadium in Washington, D.C., Nov. 7, 2015.
The ballpark, complete with its red, white and blue Americana features for its hometown team, became ground zero for beer fans as the local companies put their craft, as well as their reputation, on tap.
But one booth stood out among the collection of beer purveyors. While many received lines to refill plastic sample glasses, this one handed out empty glasses later to be filled with a symbolic promise to return people home.
Corey Duke, a volunteer with the D.C.-based E-Z Taxi Cab company, said he selected being at the festival for the simple reason that people there may be doing more drinking than thinking.
“They’re thinking about what they’re going to eat for dinner or where they’re going to be waking up tomorrow and whether it’s in their bed or not,” Duke said. “It’s not important that they could still lose their life.”
Instead of brews or discounts, E-Z Taxi promoted their new downloadable app which allows customers to summon taxis from various local agencies.
But Duke warned his team and the download could only do so much.
“We can’t make them do anything,” Duke said. “We just have to hope they use their best judgment.”
Deanna Davis, E-Z Taxi marketing manager, said she agreed the stakes of the night couldn’t be higher as thousands emptied generous servings of suds into their gullets.
“Drinking and driving is terrible,” Davis said. “I think they decide to do it because they think they’ve only had one or two drinks. They have a little buzz, but they think they’re OK. But you have to realize you aren’t Superwoman or Superman. You need to go ahead and get a taxi or some kind of way to get home safely.”
Kristi Scriven, a festival attendee, made the trek from Queens, New York, to the stadium to celebrate one of her friend’s birthday.
She assured that her and her friends exit from the venue via an arranged cab service like E-Z Taxi would be as well-planned as her arrival there from the Empire State.
“It’s a great event to see a lot of local breweries and experience the atmosphere, but you don’t want to come to an event like this and go home driving drunk,” she said. “So far, I like what I’ve seen, and I know I’m going to get home safely so I’m going to have a good night.”
Cameron Gorman, a wine and beer specialist from the Kysela Pere et Fils distributor in Virginia, spent his time with patrons either filling up their mugs with his select amber ale or pouring out discarded samples from his competition, as event rules dictated.
He handled countless glasses from several inebriated customers where each potential swig he served up might have multiplied the chances of that person making a potentially deadly combination.
“There’s no reason you can’t enjoy yourself as long as you make smart decisions,” Gorman said. “Plan ahead, know what’s going on, and enjoy yourself—that’s why we live.”
The festival culminates with Dan Ridley, a disc jockey from Wizard Entertainment Productions, LLC, in Baltimore, cranking out Jamie Foxx and T. Pain’s “Blame It,” while issuing out a humorous, though urgent, plea.
“Whatever you do tonight, do NOT drink and DRIVE,” Ridley said, adding in beats to underscore his message. “NO drinkin’ and drivin’… NO bringin’ home the alcohol… NO DUIs… PEACE OUT to everyone who came out here tonight!”
Patrons exit, even stumble, from the stadium ready to complete their day or chart a new adventure at another establishment.
While they do, Davis, Duke and the E-Z Taxi team also leave with their remaining awareness swag and the hope people will consult them later, surely out of commercial will, but also from sincere concern.
While cleaning his spigots and packing up his kegs for another venue, Gorman said he hoped attendees understood the difference between a night of harmless debauchery or one in the slammer begins with a good plan.
“With all the technology we have nowadays, getting a DUI is dumb,” he said. “You can spend $50 on a cab or $8,000 on a DUI—it’s up to you.”
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