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Bubbles and beer: the High Country Beer Fest returns to Boone

Briley Turpin
View of the festival from the hill.

The sun was beating down from a perfectly clear sky as Boone locals and visitors alike strolled through the High Country Fairgrounds to taste an abundance of beer from over 40 vendors. 

The High Country Beer Fest returned to the fairgrounds for its 16th year in Boone Saturday, August 26. Daniel Parker, a coordinator for the High Country Beer Fest, said the festival is sponsored by local businesses and breweries in tandem with Ivory Tower, a local nonprofit supporting the fermentation science program at App State. 

The festival’s proceeds are split between the App State fermentation science program and a local nonprofit that differs from year to year. This year, some of the proceeds went directly to the Hospitality House, a local nonprofit supporting low income individuals in Boone, Parker said. 

The remaining proceeds from the event went to the university’s fermentation sciences program, Parker said. 

“In general, around $2,000 will go to a smaller local nonprofit. One hundred percent of the remaining proceeds will go either directly to the program, or will get spent through Ivory Tower, which will directly benefit the program as well,” Parker said. 

Parker said the High Country Beer Fest started around the same time as the fermentation sciences program began at App State.

Parker said in its early stages, the program was floating around without a department to belong to.

“Funding for the program could have been better, so the founders developed the nonprofit to help raise money for the program, which led to the development of the beer fest as a fundraiser for the program,” Parker said said. 

This year, the festival hosted 42 breweries, each offering samples of a few choice selections of their beer. Vendors were scattered throughout the fairgrounds, identifiable by tents clad with breweries’ names and logos. 

Among these 42 vendors were several local breweries, including Booneshine Brewing Company, Lost Province Brewing Co., Beech Mountain Brewing Company, Appalachian Mountain Brewery and the new South End Brewing Co.

Aaron Moss, the head brewer at Beech Mountain Brewing Company, said he has been a part of the festival for 11 or 12 years. 

“I absolutely love High Country Beer Festival. The festival organizers do a great job making sure there are just about enough breweries and tickets sold so that lines aren’t long and people can enjoy themselves. It’s just a well run organization,” Moss said.

Tim Herdklotz, the president and co-founder of Booneshine, said the festival as a whole is a good thing for the High Country.

“We’re fortunate in Boone to have such a tight brewing community. We all help each other out, so this feels like a celebration of that and a celebration of working with Ivory Tower to support fermentation sciences,” he said.

Local band Educated Guess on stage at the festival. (Briley Turpin )

Many of the local breweries worked with Ivory Tower to create a beer specifically for the festival that could be sampled while walking around the event.

In addition to beer, the festival had several food vendors and live music from local musicians. This year’s lineup included Will Willis and Friends, Pressley Laton and Educated Guess.

Patrons flocked to the stage to watch the performers while enjoying their beer. The crowd sang along to Pressley Laton’s covers of popular country and rock songs and danced to the funky rhythms of Educated Guess. 

Throughout the day, people headed up the hill behind the festival to have a seat on the grass and watch the action from above. 

Kinney Baughman, a former board member for the festival, calls himself “Bubble Man.” Baughman took to the hill as the perfect place to blow giant bubbles that rained down on the festival goers below.

Bubbles rain down on festival goers. (Briley Turpin )

Baughman said the idea of Bubble Man came to him as he was running a race from Boone to Blowing Rock. As he passed Mystery Hill, he was met with a cloud of bubbles to run through. 

He noticed that people loved the bubbles, so the next time he was shopping on Amazon, he added some bubble guns to his cart. 

From that day forward, he started bringing the bubbles with him to events. 

“That was officially when Bubble Man began. About a month after that was Beer Fest, and I brought the bubbles with me. People clearly just liked it,” he said. 

The board of the beer fest loved the idea and requested that Baughman become Bubble Man at the festival. 

“There’s just something primal about bubbles. Everybody loves bubbles,” he said. 

 Baughman said he gets “a real kick” out of being Bubble Man.

Kinney “Bubble Man” Baughman with his bubble wand. (Briley Turpin )

“I bring out my bubbles and everybody puts a big smile on their face. How many things can you do in life that make people that happy that quick?” he said. 

Parker said the festival sold out and brought in 1,750 attendees this year. Over the last 16 years, the event has raised about $550,000 for App State fermentation sciences and around $30,000 for local nonprofits, he said.

“Keeping the event smaller we believe creates a better event for everyone. It keeps the lines shorter, and it allows the attendees to have conversations with the brewers about their products. Education not intoxication is what the High Country Beer Festival is about,” Parker said.

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About the Contributor
Briley Turpin
Briley Turpin, A&C Editor
Briley Turpin (she/her) is a senior communications major with a criminal justice minor.
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  • R

    Robert TurpinAug 28, 2023 at 9:35 pm

    I give you an A +
    Very informative.