Nancy Johnson has been running the Great American Beer Festival for longer than most of the attending brewers have been in business. She has seen styles and trends and ticket-sale issues come and go, but when it comes to planning, the buck -- and the beer -- starts and stops with her. As part of our series of GABF-related Q&As, Johnson gave us the lowdown on safety and security at the three-day festival, which starts today.
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Westword: What advice would you give someone coming to GABF?
The security team is most concerned with the health and safety of our attendees. So I'd say: Drink water before and during the event, and be sure to eat while you're here. Also, you'll ease your entry to the festival if you don't bring backpacks or any of the restricted items listed on our GABF website. Finally, have your valid ID handy -- everyone gets checked, period.
What advice would you give to someone as they are leaving?
Make sure you've taken good notes on what you've sampled and enjoyed during the festival. You'll thank yourself the next time you're at the liquor store or your local craft beer bar, ordering...what was that beer again? Exactly. As you're leaving, make sure your commemorative tasting cup is empty. Make sure you know where all your friends are; don't make assumptions. And of course, meet your designated driver or take a cab or public transportation to arrive safely home.
Have you ever had to kick someone out, and why?
Our primary goal is to ensure the safety and health of all attendees, so they can have a fun and educational experience at the festival. The security team is here to support everyone having an experience where they can savor the flavor responsibly. There's adequate security and law enforcement personnel throughout the festival to ensure that all attendees are having a safe and enjoyable event.
Everyone there is drinking. What do you look for to identify someone who might have to be kicked out?
As at any large public event, we're looking to make sure that everyone is safe and healthy. I would note that most festival-goers are happy, friendly and mindful of each others' enjoyment.
Do you have to work all the sessions or do you get to be a citizen at some point and try the beers yourself?
Our security staff works all sessions of the festival, with complete focus on their jobs. Happily, with the growth of craft breweries not only in the Front Range but around the country, there are plenty of off-hours opportunities for everyone to enjoy a tasty beer or two.
If you've worked GABF before, what is the weirdest thing you've ever seen?
We always love seeing all the fun and clever costumes...maybe especially the Where's Waldo crew. We get lots of repeat customers at the festival, and it's fun to see them year over year. In fact, dozens of time each year, our staff hears, "Hey, you're back!" It's also really fun to see our international guests sampling beers from the U.S., given that we're now the world's most diverse brewing nation.
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