Groves leaders discuss Pecan Festival proposal for 2023 beer garden

Published 12:20 am Thursday, August 31, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

GROVES — Groves Pecan Festival is joining the ranks of other area festivals with the addition of a beer garden.

Chamber leaders are hoping the change brings more people to the festival and helps the event grow.

One city leader was not on board with the idea of a beer garden.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Councilwoman Rhonda Dugas questioned Chamber Vice President Bert Lamson and Executive Director Letha Knaus on their plan and morals for wanting to sell alcohol at a family event in a town known as a bed-and-breakfast community.

Groves Chamber of Commerce Vice President Bert Lamson, left, and Executive Director Letha Knaus speak to councilmembers on the idea of a beer garden for the Groves Pecan Festival. (Mary Meaux/The News)

The festival is set for Thursday/Oct. 12 to Sunday/Oct. 15 with beer sales on each of those days.

The discussion and approval occurred during a Monday night city council meeting.

Lamson and Knaus did not have a plan laid out for the beer garden but were prepared to answer questions, and did.

A fence will divide the beer garden, Lamson said. IDs will be checked and those of drinking age will be given a wristband. Police officers, hired by the Groves Chamber of Commerce, will be on site to see who goes in and out of the beer garden and be able to note if anything illegal is going on.

Beer will be sold by the Groves Knights of Columbus with profits split between the KCs and the Chamber.

Dugas asked if Lamson anticipated profit from the sales of beer and, if so, where would the money go.

Groves Councilman Paul Oliver, left, listens as Councilwoman Rhonda Dugas asks questions about the possibility of bringing a beer garden to the annual festival. (Mary Meaux/The News)

The profits will go to the Chamber’s general fund, though officials have not designated what the money would be used for.

As for the amount of profit, Lamson could not answer the question, as this would be a first-time event for the festival, he said.

Dugas, who stated she does not drink alcohol, asked Lamson where the idea of a beer garden came from.

The answer — the community.

“What do you mean the community?” Dugas asked.

“All the people that I’ve talked to about this. I’ve questioned several people about the idea and I’ve not talked to anybody that’s not been in favor of it,” Lamson said.

The only alcoholic beverage that will be sold at the festival’s beer garden will be beer.

“So you’re gonna sell beer, beer and is that all? Just beer?” Dugas said. “You do know this is a drug. It is considered a drug. Alcohol is a drug. It’s a depressant. And I’m surprised that the police aren’t here speaking out against it because they’re the ones that’s going to be dealing with this. They deal with it every day all day long.”

Lamson said he has spoke with City Marshal Norman Reynolds Jr., who signed off on the idea.

The beer garden would sell beer on Sunday, which also brought out opposition from Dugas, leading her to ask Lamson “where’s your morals?”

Knaus said it all comes down to the fact that people have a choice.

During further discussion, Lamson explained the servers would be licensed through the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Mayor Pro Tem Mark McAdams said he believes a beer garden would draw people to the festival and there’s always concerns of safety. He asked the Chamber to make sure they do everything in their power to ensure safety.

Mayor Chris Borne said he believes the Chamber is looking outside the box for ways to bring in extra revenue and bring people in, commending them for finding new ways to generate business at the Groves Pecan Festival.

The beer garden issue passed with a majority vote with Dugas casting the no vote.

The 2023 beer garden is a one-year experiment and will be evaluated after the fact to see if the practice continues.