If enthusiasm can make an event successful, the Downtown Kenosha Pop-Up Beer Garden — kicking off a two-weekend run on Thursday — can’t miss.

Organizer Alexandria Binanti Robinson is animated when talking about not only this event but downtown in general.

“I’m most excited about the community engagement,” she said over lunch while discussing the third annual event. “It’s a fun party, but it also showcases what our downtown has to offer. I’m hoping we see an increase in foot traffic to downtown businesses.”

As the new executive director of Downtown Kenosha Inc., Robinson is spearheading her first DKI Pop-Up Beer Garden, but she’s had a lot of experience in planning and executing big events with lots of moving pieces.

“I worked on projects for the village of Salem Lakes, and my parents own Binanti’s Taste of Italy, so I have experience in restaurant and catering,” she said. “And now I have this really cool job.”

Lots of what made the 2017 and 2018 events such a success will be back: Beer, bands, bonfires, beer, food, drum circles, beer, yoga on the beach ... did we mention there will be beer?

New features include a VIP tent, an artisan market, rock painting with Kenosha Rocks and Drag Queen Bingo.

Also new is an attitude.

“This year, it’s an all-local event, with all local vendors,” Robinson said.

The first Pop-Up Beer Garden came about two years ago when DKI was approached by craft brewer Milwaukee Brewing Co. and “millennial expert” Ian Abston.

“But now we’re taking ownership of it,” Robinson said. “This is a DKI event. We’ve tried to amp up the programming this year for all ages. This event is always evolving.”

VIP section

The VIP experience came about, Robinson said, when organizers of a high school reunion asked for a tent for a private party during the event.

“Since we were getting a tent for them, we decided to add a whole VIP Tent.”

VIP tickets cost $40 and include food and drink tickets, a private beer tap, some DKI swag bags, a meet-and-greet with the musicians performing at the event, first dibs to sign up for sponsored programming (trivia, grilling demos, bingo) and specialized dining service. (There are also catered dinners on certain nights; those tickets are $100 and are separate from the VIP ticket.)

“The VIP Tent will have a chill vibe with an elevated experience,” Robinson said. Purchase VIP tickets in advance at www.downtownkenosha.org/beer-garden/

Other new events

Markets: “This is every day of the event,” Robinson said, “and will feature a mix of six to 10 artists with jewelry Tarot card readings, CBD oil products.” Artisan Markets are 4 to 9 p.m. Thursdays (Aug. 8 and 15), Twilight Markets are 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays (Aug. 9 and 16) and 5 to 11 p.m. Saturdays (Aug. 10 nd 17). Health and Family Markets are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays (Aug. 11 and 18) with holistic healing products, crafters and artisans.

Drag Queen Bingo: “This is a Kenosha Pride event,” Robinson said. “Miss Kenosha Pride is emceeing the free Bingo game. It’s PG-rated entertainment and will be an actual Bingo game with prizes.” Aug. 16.

Fashion show: Local boutiques will be showcased during this event, 3 p.m. Aug. 10.

Rock painting: “DKI and Women and Children’s Horizons are doing painting with Kenosha Rocks,” Robinson said. “Kids and adults are welcome to paint rocks and then go and hid them.” The rock painting starts at 2 p.m. Aug. 10.

Keys to success

“This event is our biggest fundraiser and will raise money for our 2020 projects, including flower baskets and streetscape work,” Robinson said.

She’ll consider this Po-Up Beer Garden a success if “No. 1, I survived it,” said Robinson, who said she will “live at the beach” for the eight days of the event. “Also, I want to see people happy and engage with others. If our vendors and entertainers want to come back in 2020, it’s a success.

“Overall,” she added, “we really want to raise awareness of our downtown.”

A big key to the event’s success is the team of volunteers, Robinson said.

“The biggest challenge in all events is getting enough help,” she said. “We have a great core group of volunteers but can always use more.”

When we talked, the Pop-Up Beer Garden was two weeks away, and Robinson was “feeling amped and living on Red Bulls and getting stuff done.”

She admits to having a few nightmares about the infamous, ill-fated Fyre Festival but said that fiasco can’t happen in downtown Kenosha.

“We have such a great entertainment scene here, and everyone works together,” she said. “With live events, you know something will go wrong — and that’s OK. You just need to ask for help.”

Robinson has come a long way from her days as a teen, selling pizza slices over the fence to Country Thunder fans (“we made a killing,” she said, “before security made us leave”) and said DKI’s event can’t go wrong “if you listen to your audience and are willing to evolve. I want people to feel welcome and have a good time.”

Have a comment? Email Liz at esnyder@kenoshanews.com or call her at 262-656-6271.

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