With age comes gray hair … wisdom … both?
encore is turning 35 in 2019 and we learn something new each passing year about our community, how we cover local arts, entertainment and news, and how we celebrate all the players—artists, businesses, nonprofits—who make up the best of our community. Enter encore’s Best Of Wilmington readers’ choice awards. It was the first of its kind, superseding her 20-year tenure, according to editor-in-chief Shea Carver.
Before the process went completely digital in the mid-aughts, a printed ballot appeared in encore annually for folks to fill out and mail in. Then staff and interns counted them by hand.
“It was quite a grueling process,” Carver remembers, “but we really kept our local mailmen and mailwomen busy. Thank goodness for the interwebz streamlining the process for us. Now the ballot runs for one month as open nominations, then another month for final contenders.”
While the Best Of voting process has come a long way in the last decade, so has encore’s annual awards ceremony. What started in the early aughts as one big free-for-all at City Stage (now Front Street Theatre) evolved into a fundraiser at Brooklyn Arts Center. Now in year 17, the celebration moves into an all-day festival, a.k.a. Bestival, at Waterline Brewing Company.
Bestival will feature local and regional craft-brew tastings, such as Gee Bee Racer Honey Pale Ale and Harley Pope Imperial Vanilla Porter from Check Six Brewing Company, or Pop Gose the Mole (a pomegranate gose) and Boston Mole Party IPA from Mad Mole. Ironclad will serve a Hoppy Wheat and a Guava Lager, and Skytown will unleash their latest IPA, Wolfdragon.
There will be an arts and crafts market featuring more than 40 vendors. Plus, there will be live music, comedy and theatrical entertainment. It all happens between Best Of winner announcements, crowning the crème de la crème of Wilmington for 2019.
The festival will feature a Bestival Bid auction for folks to donate $25 to be entered to win packages filled with restaurant gift certificates, craft beer and wine, a bicycle, Dead Crow Comedy passes, Wilmington Wine and Food Festival passes, local jewelry, crafts and more, valued at over $300 each. All money will go toward DREAMS of Wilmington, which works to ensure at-risk youth experience the benefits of dance, music, visual art, multimedia, ceramics, jewelry-making, writing, etc., regardless of status or school district. The guidance they receive from inspiring working artists, like Fritzi Huber, Laura McClean, Ben Billingsley and Kevin Lee-y Green, is unmatched.
“We support the arts full force at encore,” Carver says, “and I personally find it a travesty to see it removed from schools so willy nilly, as if it’s secondary to a fully rounded education. Arts enhance all parts of life and the brain and learning and empathy and overall happiness. DREAMS is an inspiring nonprofit.”
Carver breaks down more history of Best Of and dishes the deets on the inaugural Bestival, set to take place Saturday, May 11, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
encore (e): Take readers back to early awards shows at City Stage. Tell us about the size, vibe, memorable moment(s)…
Shea Carver (SC): It wasn’t until the early 2000s we launched the official Best Of Awards Ceremony. At the time assistant editor Amanda Kraus came up with the idea and reached out to local comedy troupe Changing Channels to host the show, and our MCs were DJs Brian and Jim in the Morning from WSFM 107.5 at the time. It became one big fun fest every year at City Stage, where the booze flowed freely and the laughter moved from low-key to overdrive, sometimes getting raunchy and often included nudity at one point or another (Jef from Changing Channels always loved to dance in his undies). It truly was a night of debunking all fancy awards shows. It was free to attend but would usually cost you a pretty big hangover the next day. Back then we only invited the winners since City Stage’s capacity was smaller.
And it was a lot of work our small staff had to handle.
e: Then there was the move to BAC…
SC: So around five or six years ago, we decided to evolve Best Of into a fundraiser for an area nonprofit and turn over the reins for someone else to plan and help us shed light on the greater good of our community. We pared down the Wild West vibe and streamlined the program with local comedy troupe Pineapple-Shaped Lamps (Changing Channels folks had families to raise and careers to pursue). We worked with Kids Making It, Carousel Center and Surfers Healing but primarily DREAMS has been our Best Of beneficiary.
With the move to BAC came a larger audience, so we opened it to all the nominees in every category. The ceremony lasted a little over three hours and included a house band, or even two or three, playing in between bits from PSL, and tons of food being passed around from the food and beverage nominees. It became a celebration of around 500 to 600 people, and we charged $10-$15 entry fee; the nonprofit benefited from ticket sales, raffles and sponsorships.
e: We’ve been talking about switching up Best Of celebrations for a while. Why now and why an all-day festival?
SC: Two years ago I felt like we were outgrowing the event. I wanted to take it back to being free but also open it to the community at large to celebrate all-things local—which is at the center of Best Of. Also, as a nighttime event, we often heard local culinary folks couldn’t make it out to celebrate since Saturday night was one of their busiest days of the week—and food and beverage is easily a third of our nominees.
encore staff already wanted to host some outdoor event underneath the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge at Waterline; we had been in talks for more than a year but couldn’t figure out what we wanted to do. I felt restructuring Best Of would be the perfect opportunity: doing an outdoor arts and craft market, plus invite local breweries to host a craft beer fest, plus invite six bands (mostly Bestie nominees) to play throughout the day, and have comedy and entertainment from Pineapple-Shaped Lamps.
PSL has really done a spectacular job programming all entertainment and has included local theatre groups and DREAMS students, too. When I found out Cape Fear Comedy Fest was happening at Waterline the night of May 11, it seemed like a good idea to invite some of their comedians and others throughout the community to do standup bits fit in perfectly. The awards will be announced out throughout the day in 20-minute increments. Voila! Here we are at our inaugural Bestival.
e: In a perfect world, what would Bestival be for the ILM community?
SC: First and foremost, encore works to support locals in all efforts—from arts and music, to film and food, to theatre and businesses and beyond. So Bestival celebrates all of those areas. We will have local food trucks: Cheesesmith Co., Bill’s Brew Food, T’Geaux Boys and Donut Bus. Our music consists of all local bands—Travis Shallow, Rebekah Todd, Striking Copper, David Dixon, Randy McQuay, and New Atmosphere. Our beer is locally crafted—Edward Teach Brewing, Flying Machine, Wrightsville Beach Brewery, Broomtail, New Anthem, and 10 others. Our comedy comes from PSL and 14 stand-up comedians, plus we will have The Nerd Guide comedy trivia event. Our awards celebrate all locals and will be announced in between entertainment programming.
Really, the best part of Bestival is it’s open to everyone to attend, not just nominees and for F-R-E-E! Though, we are welcoming donations to DREAMS and all beer sample tickets and silent auction items benefit DREAMS. More so, it’s family-friendly, so bring the kids.
e: What’s the final head count for the arts market? Goals for next year?
SC: Our arts market is about 40 or more local artisans, artists and crafters, like Candy Pegram, Botanic Synergy, Half United, Decaying Doug Photos, Bradley Carter Art, Mossy Fox Studios, Earth & Stone, Spiritual Junkies, Guttersnipe Press, Solstice Woodworks, Port City Dispensary, to name but a few. We even have organizations involved, like Cape Fear Parrot Sanctuary and Habitat for Humanity. Let’s just say the creative spirit is alive and well in ILM, and it will be very apparent at Bestival!
As for next year, well, slow your roll … [laughing] but, really, I’d like 100 vendors.
e: What will we see from DREAMS at Bestival?
SC: DREAMS will have their students’ works for sale at a booth. Plus, PSL have them programmed to dance and sing on the main stage during the day. It’s great to finally have the kids involved in the event; in the past, the night ceremony has been more adult-oriented and thus it prevented the students’ inclusion.
e: What do people need to know about parking and navigating Bestival day of?
SC: Well, I always use Uber or Lyft for stuff like this because it’s safest if drinking is involved. I highly recommend folks partaking in the craft-beer festival aspect of Bestival to consider as much. Parking will not be available on site, so folks will need to park on the outskirts of Castle and Front and walk down to Surry Street.
Also, the free trolley runs downtown and has drop off locations at Castle and Front, so the walk to Surry is a breeze (see map for times and pickup locations).
e: Anything else to add?
SC: All nominees will head over to the awards booth, located near the main stage. Just approach the PSL peeps, tell them the name of your business, organization, place, person, etc., and they’ll pull out your win(s). Then head over to the Step and Repeat, next to the awards table, and have your picture made from Chris Brehmer Photography.
Oh, and we encourage everyone to have their picture made, not just winners! We will run photos on our website and in the paper throughout May and June, when announcing Best Of winners.
Also, if you’d like to volunteer at the event, give us a buzz (910-791-0688). We can always use a set of extra hands and you’ll get a snazzy volunteer shirt.