Bears and beers in the same place? Don’t worry, no animals will imbibe but the guests will at the Brews in the Zoo Oct. 7 at California Living Museum.
For this first-of-its-kind event, CALM has partnered with Yelp Bakersfield, which found success teaming on Winter Zootacular, which was timed during Holiday Lights in 2015.
Brews in the Zoo will build on that success, featuring about a dozen breweries and cider providers along with bites from local eateries. Attendees will also be able to explore the grounds and interact with docents and ambassador animals to learn more about the facility.
Participants include local outfits Kern River Brewing, Temblor and Local Craft Beer out of Tehachapi along with Figueroa Mountain, Firestone-Walker Brewing Company, Spiked Seltzer, Tioga-Sequoia and more. Snacks will come from Moo Creamery, The Padre Hotel, Strongman Mini Donuts, Pop-Pa's Gourmet Popcorn and others.
McKenzie Swisshelm, Bakersfield community ambassador for Yelp, said this was a dream event for her even before going to work for the Internet search and review service.
"I always felt CALM was the perfect venue for a beer festival — its roaming pathways, huge shade trees, and, of course, the amazing animals," she wrote in an email.
Even for frequent zoo visitors, this will be a "new and unique experience," Swisshelm said.
"For one, you're leaving the kids at home — hello, date night! Two, it's in the twilight hours when some of the animals are most active. And three, beer, beer, and more beer — and ciders, too!"
Steve Sanders, chief of staff at the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, which oversees the zoo, said they've also thought this type of gathering would be a good fit.
"I'm always interested in getting people out to the zoo. ...Our hope is to see how this goes and make it an event that's bigger in the future."
Size is one catch of Brews, which will be capped at about 250 attendees.
"This is the first event of this kind at CALM and we really want to make it fantastic," Swisshelm said. "It's important that all Yelpers in attendance have a great experience, and I'd rather this event start small and successful than large and unruly."
The other consideration is that would-be guests must RSVP via Yelp, through which they must have an account. Members can still RSVP via the website (yelp.com/events/bakersfield-yelps-brews-in-the-zoo) until Oct. 1, although there were already 385 responses as of Wednesday. And unlike other Yelp events, these RSVPs do not include a plus-one so it's every person for themselves.
Swisshelm said early confirmation emails will go out starting Sept. 20 but there will be a wait-list to fill spots opened by any late cancellations.
CALM will be closed to the public that afternoon, giving attendees front and center access to the animal residents, like donkey newcomers Wolfman Jack and Flap Jack, aka Wolfie and Flappy and the zoo's new California Condors in the raptor round and California Coast Room, which features moon jellies and a touch tank. And don't let the name fool you: The Central California Children's Railroad will also be operating, taking attendees for rides along its route.
There is no cost to attend the event but guests are encouraged to donate, starting with $20 — or more if they're feeling generous.
Swisshelm, who has organized past Yelp events with a donation-based admission, said results are usually good.
"Bakersfield is a great community full of very generous people, so it's quite common to see people donate much more than the minimum."
That's music to Sanders' ears. He said making $5,000 (the amount of each attendees paying $20) would be great but "we’ll accept donations of any type."
"More than anything we want to expose people to this amazing gem that is in our community."
Showing people the great strides in education and animal rehabilitation the facility has made is a point of pride.
"CALM has been around for 34 years. People who maybe went as kids now they're parents. They've been to the (Holiday) Lights but haven't been back to the zoo. They don't know how far CALM has come in terms of growth. They're usually pretty amazed."