When Kristen Kozik, who owns the Copper Kettle Brewing Company with her husband, first heard about the horrific shooting at the Aurora Century 16 theater on July 20, 2012, she never imagined she'd know someone involved. It wasn't until the authorities released a list of the twelve people killed that she realized that one of the brewery's regular customers, 24-year-old Alex Teves, was among those who had died.
"As soon as we found out, we wanted to do something for his family," Kozik says. It's a tradition they've kept up -- and this year, on the second anniversary of the shooting, Copper Kettle will host "A Night to Remember," a beer festival in Alex's honor.
The festival will take place on Sunday, July 20 at Four Mile Historic Park from 4 to 8 p.m. It will feature beer from twenty breweries, including Copper Kettle, Great Divide Brewing Company, River North Brewery and Avery Brewing Company. Several food trucks, including Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs and Basic Kneads Pizza, will also be there, as will a live bluegrass band. Tickets are $25 ($15 for designated drivers) and all proceeds benefit the ACT Foundation, a charity set up by Teves's parents that provides scholarships for students with special needs to attend the Humanex Academy, where Alex was a mentor.
Alex was one of Copper Kettle's first customers and one of the first members of the brewery's Mug Club. Copper Kettle still has the mug he earned for drinking fifty beers.
"He was a huge craft beer drinker and just a wonderful guy," Kozik says.
In 2012, Copper Kettle hosted a benefit for Alex in their tasting room and donated all of the proceeds to a charity of his parents' choice. The following year, on the one-year anniversary of the shooting, Copper Kettle moved the festival outside to the parking lot and invited other local breweries and food trucks to take part.
Continue for more from Alex's mom, Caren Teves. Alex's mother, Caren Teves, says she had mixed feelings about attending last year's event. She says she and Alex's fiance sat in the parking lot, cell phone in hand, ready to call Copper Kettle and tell them they just couldn't do it.
"But we pulled ourselves together and said, 'We have to do this for Alex,'" Caren remembers. "We figured we'd take a play out of Alex's book and get out of the car. When we did, it was truly life changing for us. We were surrounded by so much compassion. I'm actually looking forward to attending this year to get that feeling."
Although July 20 will always be an incredibly difficult day, Caren says the festival has changed the way she marks the anniversary of the shooting. "It gives me an opportunity to talk about how he lived his life," she says. "He was all about laughter, friendship and making people feel good about themselves. (The festival) kind of adds another component on top of the tragedy to where we can look at that day and spend that day around our friends and family and have some smiles and friendship."
Caren, who lives in Phoenix, says she enjoys being around the things Alex loved -- craft beer, good food -- and spending time in the city that he adopted as his own after earning his master's degree in counseling psychology at the University of Denver.
"Everybody (at the festival) is so unbelievably generous and they all find their way to us to give us a hug," Caren says. "I truly understand why Alex was so happy there."
For Kozik, the festival is a way to remember her friend and help others remember, as well. "It's called 'A Night to Remember' ... so people don't forget," Kozik says. "Unless you were directly affected by (the shooting), over time, you might not think about it as much. We want people remember that night -- but in a festive way, not a solemn way."
This year, the festival will once again feature a silent auction. Some of the items up for bid include Denver Broncos tickets, passes to the Great American Beer Festival, a signed Jerry Seinfeld photo and a signed Shaquille O'Neal shoe. (It's huge, Kozik says.)
Festival-goers will raise a toast to all twelve deceased victims of the theater shooting: A.J. Boik, Alex Sullivan, Gordon Cowden, Jesse Childress, Jessica Ghawi, John Thomas Larimer, Jonathan Blunk, Matt McQuinn, Micayla Medek, Rebecca Wingo, Veronica Moser-Sullivan and Alex Teves.
Watch a video from last year's event below or click for tickets to this year's event.
Continue for more events to remember the theater shooting tragedy. The Aurora Strong Resilience Center, which opened one year ago to serve both victims and the community, will also host events on Sunday to remember the tragedy. The center, which is open year-round, will offer tai chi, yoga, a drumming circle and other activities starting at 9 a.m. Attendees will be offered the opportunity to paint a rock or make a paper crane in remembrance of the victims, and food and drink will be provided.
"Every year, we will offer something for the survivors to let them know that the community does remember what happened to them," says Kristen Anderson, the disaster coordinator for the Aurora Mental Health Center, which partners with the Aurora Strong Resilience Center to provide activities and free counseling to theater shooting survivors and community members alike.
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