Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Baby's First Beerfest

As we slowly acquaint ourselves with our new home here in Madison, Wisconsin, Mrs. Blackwell and I are doing our best to get out and meet folks. 

Mrs. Blackwell, before "the incident."
Part of our routine has included Friday evening visits to a local brewery where there are scores of young parents with their kids, hanging out and listening to live music. 

So, Mrs. Blackwell and I will pack our little guy into his stroller and head over to the brewery for a beer. We never fail to meet some friendly folks and other little babies. It's the definition of a "nice" time.

This expectation, one of relaxation at a leisurely pace, dominated my thoughts when we decided to meet some friends for a good time at this year's Great Taste of the Midwest. This event attracts hundreds of beer brewers from throughout the region and, with admission, comes unlimited sampling of their wares.

(To be clear, for anyone who remotely likes beer this is, without question, Shangri La. At minimum you can find a handfull of brands and just sit for the day sipping them. At most, you'll never taste the same beer twice, even if the event was a two-week affair. But, since this isn't a beer blog, back to the baby stuff.)

We expected to take our little guy and languidly stroll through the beer tents sprinkled along the shores of sunny lake Monona. Naturally, we expected wrong. 

While it's billed as the "dairy" state, it's now abundantly clear I've in fact moved to the beer state. There are more micro-brews in this area than I can name and I learn of a new "local brew" with regularity. The Great Taste, sells about 7,000 tickets and this year, I was told by participants, the event sold out in minutes. 

As Mrs. Blackwell and I approached the event we were greeted with a portender of things to come. A sea of people, literally thousands, were lined up waiting for the gates to open to the event. 

Once we found a parking spot, about a quarter mile away, we made our way into the event, with our little guy sleeping in his stroller. 

Yeah to beer! Boo to me for expecting a beer fest to be
"family friendly."
There was, in fact, nothing leisurely about this. We were pushing a stroller through a crowd of people packed sardine-tight in spots. 

For a while we did this, pushing our way around the event, the stroller no doubt drawing the eyes, judgement and scorn of many. Of course, this is Wisconsin so there were plenty of nice, friendly people asking to have a look or, in one case, make silly faces at our baby. 

But, ultimately, this was work. The park was a bit hilly and, at one point the stroller teetered so we stopped, found a quiet patch of land under a tree and took a break. Mrs. Blackwell went off for a bit, got some food and came back. 

Then, it was my turn to head off with a friend to sample some beers. Trouble was, I mistakenly took Mrs. Blackwell's phone with me. 

About 15 minutes passed before I realized this and then my phone rang. Mrs. Blackwell had walked clear across the park, perhaps a third of a mile, with the stroller and located a few of our friends, one of whom loaned her a phone.

He's alright everybody. And, as a bonus, we learned he
probably won't break under intense interrogation.
My wife was quite upset, but not about the phone. Instead, she informed me that while she was sitting enjoying the sun with our little guy, she noticed a spider on his face. Given that language has yet to develop a term that means "arachnophobia to the tenth power" I'll just say Mrs. Blackwell doesn't like spiders. And, as it turns out, she especially doesn't like spiders crawling across her child's face.

For his part, our little guy didn't seem to mind. 

As Mrs. Blackwell told me, when the spider paused with two of its legs standing on the white of our son's eye, he didn't even blink. I'm not sure if this is good or bad but there's something intimidating about this in a G. Gordon Liddy kind of way. 

Regardless, between this and the ever-growing beer fest crowd, it was clear we were done. After about two hours, Mrs. Blackwell pulled the shoot and decided to head home. Great lady that she is, she insisted I stay. 

A couple hours later our friends accompanied me home and Mrs. Blackwell was able to enjoy a social evening too. Spider free no less. 

So, we'll see you at the Great Taste of the Midwest 2013 but, the boy won't be making it. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: A huge, special thanks to our good friend Brent and all the folks at Big Muddy Brewing. The best brewery in Southern Illinois stands firmly amongst the best in the Midwest too. 

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