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Riverfront Cleanup for Beer Fest Yields Wealth of Trash -- and One Possible Gem

After daylong river bank sweep, volunteers find what they think is an old flag pole from Electric Park.

A 20-foot farm auger, a rusty broiler, a gazillion 55-gallon barrels, corroded water heaters, pipes, bags and bags of trash -- and a pole that may have secured a flag waving over long-gone Electric Park.

That’s what volunteers found when they did a sweep of the DuPage River bank on a muggy morning in early July.

It made Steve Caton froth with fury.

Co-founder of the and co-owner of , Caton remembers playing in the park before it was a park, back when the area was home to the village waste treatment center. 

He reminisces about pedaling his bike down the riverbank trail, playing "pioneer" with boyhood friends in a little patch of forest, snooping around the old ballroom that blew down in the 1990 Plainfield tornado, leaving a circle of naked concrete where Plainfield parents once waltzed and kids later roller-skated.

“People were using this place as a dump,” Caton said.

Why the cleanup? The 17 workers turned out to set the stage for the first Midwest Brewers Fest on Aug. 27 at Riverfront Park, located where Electric Park once stood in the early 1900s.

Caton and Dale Lewis, fest co-founder and owner of , tapped the idea to showcase craft beers while raising money for the . The nonprofit group's goal is to restore the park, which is just off downtown and east of Plainfield Village Hall.

For five hours the volunteers toiled in the sun, combing a mile of
shoreline with black trash bags, trucks and heavy equipment. Brian Bart, with of Plainfield, contributed a construction winch to drag discarded farm machinery out of the thicket. Someone brought a torch to cut apart massive shards of pipe and metal.

Teams infiltrated the woods, toting out barrels, broilers
and decaying appliances.

Another crew waded through the shallow water, skimming wrappers and cans and bottles and cups from the brink. They righted the flag pole and plan to ask local history buffs to authenticate its origin. The troops took up a collection to rent industrial trash bins.

Those who participated in the cleanup are among about 95 volunteers who have been working on the brew fest for several months, Caton said.

“We wanted to make a safe and attractive place to entertain
our guests and a safe place for kids to play,” he said.

If all 4,000 fest tickets are sold, they'll raise about $40,000 for the riverfront project, which requires about $2 million for the first phase. Beyond that, however, it’s also a way to introduce people to the charm and potential of the area.

“We’re not here just to drink beer,” Caton said. “We’re here
to make the park come back to life.”

Craft beer festivals draw people who are more interested in sampling new brands than drinking too much and getting rowdy, he said. Still, the fest is offering a $10 “designated driver ticket” that entitles the bearer to a bottomless cup of soda.

Goose Island Brew Pub of Chicago and 95.9 The River radio station
recently signed on as sponsors, Caton said. Five-Rabbit Beer of Chicago, Lagunitas Brewing Company of California and New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colo., are among the brewers who will be offering beers to sample.

Beer fans can check the www.midwestbrewfest.com to watch for new microbrews signing on daily and to buy tickets.

Admission to one-day event, from noon to 8 p.m., is $40
in advance and $50 on the day of the fest. The price of admission buys 25 tickets for 2-ounce “pours” of 150 types of beer provided by 50 craft brewers and five tickets for home-brew samples. Additional beer tickets will cost 10 for $20.

Organizers urge people to buy tickets in advance so vendors
are better able to plan for supplies, Caton said.

Steve Caton August 05, 2011 at 05:20 PM
Hi Eric, We recently asked the village police for the right to increase the # of tickets per person and it was granted to 25 + 5 tickets for the GA ticket, which is 30 included tasting tickets included in your entry ticket. the extra tickets to purchase was a misprint in this article. The extra tickets are 20 tickets for $10, or 40 oz of rare craft beer for $10. We listened to comments like yours, thank you. Hope this helps you consider attending this event and supporting the fundraising cause while having fun. Cheers
Steve Caton August 05, 2011 at 05:39 PM
Hi Marty, Thank you for your comments. I wanted to respond to clarify that the arguments of whether the volunteers and contributors are doing this as a selfless act with no benefit or as business people who will benefit from exposure of having their businesses involved. I don't think that anyone is denying that local businesses that are sponsoring with time or money and getting recognized as supporting a local cause will get some benefit to their local business. If that fact bothers people to not want to come be a part of this event, that is their right to not attend. But to clarify on one point, 100% of the proceeds are going to charities and the non-for-profit local cause the redevelopment of the Riverfront.
Steve Caton August 05, 2011 at 05:41 PM
continued......Jason is one of the many volunteers who has been meeting every week since January and put in hundreds of hours and resources to help get a new and exciting regional event off the ground in our community. It was the call of the organizers to recognize these local business leaders who wanted to help make this a reality, by listing their businesses as active partners. I do hope first time visitors to Plainfield for this event do see the tremendous support and unity in our business community and want to be a part of it. It is a lot of work to organize and generate the interest for an event of this size, and as one of the business owners, there are a lot easier, less time consuming, yet self-serving ways I could spend my time & energy to promote my business, but that would defeat the foundation of why we all came together for this cause. I hope you and others will come check out the event created by your fellow citizens and business leaders that will generate the dollars and awareness to get this unfunded gem downtown redeveloped, benefiting us all.
Ed Arter August 05, 2011 at 07:00 PM
It was a pleasure meeting you at Thursdays River Fest Meeting. You deserve a big Thank You for your efforts on river clean up.Plainfield people remember a helping hand and I hope that they will frequent your orginazation.Looking forward to the Mud Volley Ball tourney you are leading on Sept 10 . Location has been changed so that the Mud will now be a main attraction.
Ed Arter August 05, 2011 at 07:04 PM
Opps---- last post was directed to Brian Bart

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