After a five-year run, Grovetoberfest is moving out of Peacock Park in Coconut Grove. This year, festival organizer Tony Albelo is taking the beer-tasting extravaganza — along with the Coconut Grove Seafood Festival — to Miami Marine Stadium.
Albelo, who organizes both events, says Grovetoberfest has grown to the point where he could no longer contain the beer festival at the Coconut Grove location. In the past five years, Albelo estimates, he's done about 30 events at Peacock Park alone, not including events organized by others.
The event's foot traffic, coupled with heavy rains that drenched last year's festival, took a muddy toll on the park, and Albelo received flak from Grovites. So he began working with them to keep the festival at Peacock Park under certain conditions, such as ending the event at 7 p.m. But he says terms kept changing.
When they wanted the option to cancel the event the day before it took place, Albelo says, that was the breaking point. "I can read between the lines. I didn't feel welcome anymore."
He notes, though, that some local businesses weren't happy to see Grovtoberfest go.
Aside from the damage caused by festival attendees, Albelo says, Grovetoberfest outgrew the park. The move turned out to be an opportunity for him because he was able to secure a new location for his festivals at Miami Marine Stadium. The event won't actually be held inside the stadium. Instead, the festivities will occur at the two-to-three-acre space next to it, which Albelo says is roughly the size of Peacock Park.
The location also includes a parking area with about 4,000 spaces — many more than Coconut Grove can offer in one spot. Parking will be a flat rate of $10. Although there's a $1.75 toll to cross the Rickenbacker Causeway to reach the stadium, Albelo says, what is paid in that toll will be saved on parking. He's also working with Uber to plan pickup and dropoff zones.
Built in 1963, the 6,566-seat Miami Marine Stadium was used to host water sports events for decades. Then Hurricane Andrew came along in 1992 and damaged the venue to the point it was declared unsafe. The abandoned site has become an attraction for graffiti artists and urban explorers, and several attempts have been made at restoring it.
The new venue provides more space for Albelo to expand Grovetoberfest to include more breweries. He says he got into a comfort zone with the original festival with trying to cater to all beer companies instead of concentrating on pleasing craft beer geeks.
He hired "beer expert" Kris Marino to pull in more craft breweries. "Maybe we didn't have the best selection, which is why we hired Kris," Albelo says.
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This year, Albelo is organizing all of the Florida breweries into a dedicated section he calls "A Sunshine State of Mind." Even though the festival is moving, Albelo says it still has the "Grove spirit," and this year it's all about craft beer.
Between the view of downtown and the extra space, moving Grovetoberfest to Miami Marine Stadium turned out to be a good idea for Albelo. "This was one of those things where it was a blessing in disguise," he says.
"We've always wanted to make Grovetoberfest bigger and better. I wouldn't have chosen this location if I knew it wasn't going to work out."
Saturday, October 15, at Miami Marine Stadium. Ticket prices range from $40 to $90. A portion of all ticket sales will be donated to Friends of Miami Marine Stadium for preservation of the stadium. For more information, visit grovetoberfest.com.