"Never in my life did I think having cool press on the front page of a newspaper was going to be one of the worst days ever," says Chowdermeister co-founder Samantha Taylor.
"To have zero sense of humor or awareness around yourself blows my mind," adds Jake Browne, Taylor's partner in weird food-fest fun.
The idea for Chowdermeister was born from a Twitter joke when Browne, also the founder of Fizz Fight, the world's first hard seltzer festival, asked people to vote on the worst food and drink pairing, vowing to throw a very real festival celebrating the most popular answer.
After securing sponsorship from Jägermeister, getting Josh Scherer, host of Mythical Kitchen, on board as guest judge and lining up heavy hitters like Top Chef's Carrie Baird to cook chowder, the fest was set to take place at Sloan's Lake on October 16.
But on September 30, Jägermeister pulled its sponsorship, forcing Taylor and Browne to cancel the Chowdermeister event that was planned as a fundraiser for the Gathering Place.
"We got a panicked phone call and an email [from Jägermeister] saying 'We're getting completely roasted by the press,' and we're sitting here going, 'Didn't we all know what this event was going to be?'" Browne recalls. "I would get it if people were dunking on Jägermeister specifically, but that wasn't what the coverage was. It was that this is a weird combination."
The oddball nature of the event contributed most of its appeal. "One of the best parts of this was just having something silly and fun and creative in a time where things are rough out there, and this was supposed to bring joy to people," Taylor adds.
But apparently Jägermeister, which has a reputation as a frat-party favorite and the kind of spirit that's involved in blurry nights filled with regret, was spooked by the idea of poking fun at itself. And so Taylor and Browne are now working to disassemble the work they put in, making lots of phone calls to cancel chefs, vendors and staff.
The event had already secured a permit from the city, so Taylor and Browne are looking for any community organizations that may be able to use it to throw a last-minute fundraiser. "If Jeppson's Malört is reading and wants to get involved," Browne offers as an alternative, "we still believe in the concept and bringing something surreal to Denver at a time when everything feels more homogenous and anodyne than ever."
In lieu of participating in the event, Jägermeister will be making a donation to the Gathering Place, but "it's nothing near what we would've been able to raise for them, and that's the real unfortunate part," Taylor notes.
The organizers are also hoping to be able to make a donation after they work through their own losses on the event, and encourage others to do the same.
They are also hoping that Chowdy Doody, the name they gave to the sort-of-terrifying mascot that cannot be retuned, will help raise some money for the nonprofit. Auction tickets are available for $5 online. and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the Gathering Place. The drawing for the winner will take place at noon on October 16, when the event would have been kicking off.
While the Chowdermeister dream has been dashed by Jäger, Taylor and Browne would like to bring more weirdly fun events to Denver in the near future. Cheers to that, but not with Jägerbombs.