Promotional image designed by Ryano Graphics
"Right now our community for the most part — and I say this with a little bit of caution — we need a little bit of heart and soul right now," organizer Kelli Lemon says. "We need a little bit of takin' it back to the kind of old-school family reunion: good music, celebration."
Lemon, a self-titled "social entrepreneur," began planning the first annual HeArt & Soul Brew Fest at the start of the year but the July 30 event couldn't have arrived at a better time. The first seven months of 2016 have proven an incontrovertible nightmare regarding our county's upcoming presidential election, mass shootings, acts of terror and racial tension, and while a celebration of Richmond's African-American chefs, restaurateurs and small-business owners certainly can't fix these, it can potentially unify the community, even if only for one afternoon of soul food and beer.
Lemon — who is also the business manager of Mama J's, host of video talk show "Coffee with Strangers," and a local radio personality — and a number of African-American restaurateurs noticed a dearth of soul-food festivals in the region, just as Jr Walthour of Brown Distributing Co. and the owners of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery noticed a by-and-large lack of diversity in Richmond's craft-beer audience. A partnership formed, and now from 2 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, you'll find Loft Seventeen, Croaker's Spot, Beverly's Ribinator BBQ & Grill Rental, Mo's Sweet Minis bakery and Mama J's all serving up soulful cuisine alongside Hardywood's beer.
"People always think that [soul-food restaurants] are competing against each other and we really aren't. We do more sharing than we do competing, so we said, 'Wouldn't it be good for us to come together someday and do something of our own?'" Lemon adds, "The real focus is to have a festival that is run by some of the black-owned top restaurants in this city and also introduce an audience to the craft-beer community, and then last but not least, have a great day out at the brewery."
Not to overshadow the community's thriving entertainment scene, you'll also find DJ sets and live music by "the Heavy Hitter" DJ Lonnie B, DJ Rayvon, DJ NoBe, Marcus Gold, Emma Davis, Radio B, The Legacy Band and Sam Reed Music, as well as art by Jason Ford of Nosaj Authentics, Earl Mack and New Pablo, Silly Genius, Bordeaux, Eddie Johnson, Kevin Robertson and Justin Q.
While the festival is a celebration, it's also about inclusion, Lemon says, and helping the city grow in a way that represents all facets of race, creed and culture: "If we are going to be that city that celebrates diversity through art, through music, through food, through culture in general, we've gotta make sure that everybody's sitting at the table."
HeArt & Soul Brew Fest is a free event, with food and beverage available for purchase. It's a festival the team hopes will grow throughout the summers to come. If you'd like to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org, follow along on social media for updates regarding vendors, activities and entertainment, and stop by for an afternoon of food, music, art and community, no matter your race.
"That's why we chose 'HeArt & Soul': When we cook our food, everything is passed down through generations and it comes from your heart and it comes from your soul, and it's that feel-good thing and you just wanna sit and talk all day long with everyone. When we sit down to eat, it's hours 'til we get up because it's the company and the fellowship. To be honest, that's really what it's all about."
HeArt & Soul Brew Fest runs from 2 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, 2408 Ownby Lane.