Beer festival leaves High Point for Greensboro

Hopfest organizer blames High Point red tape
Jul. 19, 2014 @ 04:07 PM

The organizer of a beer festival held in downtown High Point last year is moving the event to Greensboro.

Ryan Saunders said the inaugural Hopfest, held at the Mendenhall Transportation Terminal last summer, was a success.
But Saunders, who has spearheaded several revitalization initiatives in High Point, said he decided to move the festival in large part because Greensboro’s bureaucracy was much easier to navigate.
“Greensboro has a set event coordinator who works for the city,” Saunders said. “It’s a lot more streamlined because he is there to help you, and — I hate saying this — but the way it is in High Point, it’s more about them putting up obstacles than it is trying to assist you.”
He said city officials were skeptical of his ability to provide proper insurance and public safety coverage for the event.
“Their mindset was, ‘You don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t understand the terminology. Leave it to the professionals,’” he said. “I don’t think that’s the right attitude.”
Mayor Bernita Sims said the city is trying to simplify the bureaucratic process for events like the one Saunders organized.
“I hate that he has taken the position that he feels like he can’t get it done here and I wish, before he made his decision, he would have sat down with (City) Council and explained what the problems were,” Sims said. “I think there are people that do events in this city all the time that go off without a hitch. I think red tape comes in when you are asking folks to do things outside the norm.”
Saunders said Hopfest 2014 will be held Aug. 23 in downtown Greensboro on N. Greene Street.
Saunders’ website is billing the event as “a festival of brews, art, music, and ideas. Local, regional, and national bands will grace the stage, as well as beer vendors from all over the state will be ever present with taps flowing. There will also be art and food vendors, and fun booths with a variety brainstorming activities on how to make Greensboro a more lively city.”
Saunders said he’s been frustrated working with High Point on other projects, including development of the pit into a public gathering space.
Saunders wanted the city to lease the site to him exclusively for concerts, artistic events and other uses, but the council balked at the idea.
He said he presented a full redevelopment plan for the site but felt that it wasn’t given proper consideration by city leaders.
Saunders said he’s open to bringing Hopfest back to High Point, but for now, he feels that Greensboro is more business-friendly.
“It’s still to be determined whether Greensboro is that place long term, but to this point, I’ve been able to get rejuvenated in my creativity and my motivation as an entrepreneur,” he said.
pkimbrough@hpe.com | 888-3531