JT Walker's and the Mahomet Area Chamber of Commerce presented the second annual Mahomet Craft Beer Festival Saturday.
With downtown Mahomet's Main Street closed, the festival welcomed more than 30 breweries along with beverages from the Homer Soda Company and wine selections from Alto Vineyards Champaign.
The event also included a Central Illinois BBQ Cookoff, which sparked the interest of many, including Mansfield resident Cory Freeman, who prepared chicken and ribs for the competition.
"We're cooking a lot of food and hanging out with friends and finally enjoying some nice weather," he said. "We do these competitions all over, but we're here to support Mahomet and JTs and everything."
A few competitors began as early as 6:30 a.m. For Cindy, Patrick and Mike Westendorf, all of Dieterich, along with friend Rick Ludwig of Robinson, the early morning was well worth it.
"It brings people together," Ludwig said.
Competing not only against other competitors but also the weather, Mike Westendorf said conditions were quite windy.
"Our tent almost blew away a couple of times," he added.
All in all, the group enjoyed the festival and especially "the smell and the taste of the food," Patrick Westendorf said.
Andy Hussemann, of Mahomet was pleasantly surprised at the turnout of the crowd as he only found out about the festival a few days prior.
"I think it's cool that so many people are down here," he said. "Once I found out about it, I said, 'I'm going.'"
Recruiting more than Mahomet residents, the festival brought in other area locals such as University of Illinois veterinarian students Victoria McLean and Brittany Paquette.
"It's a good break from school," McLean said. "We tried to get our other friends to come, too, but we couldn't pull them away."
With the festival seated in the heart of downtown, the opportunity for local business exposure was prime.
"We would have never come here otherwise," Paquette said. "We looked at local boutique shops, like the one across the street (JdMarie Boutique)."
JdMarie Boutique co-owner Tammy Morrissey found her store's traffic steadily increasing at her Main Street storefront.
"It brings awareness that people are here," she said. "It's a good thing to bring the community together."
Food truck vendors Chester's BBQ Truck and the Snack Shake, of Jenkin's Catering, provided fan favorites from sandwiches to popcorn, pretzels and more.
"It's been a fun event," Snack Shack owner Jason Jenkins said. "We specialize in events and festivals, and we love the small-town festivals. It brings a lot of fun people out."
Jenkins attended Mahomet's Skate on Main event in January, and he said he plans to return for the Mahomet Auto Fest on June 8 and the Mahomet Music Festival Aug. 24-25.
Also returning to the area were Beth and Martin Saupe from Merrybeth Farm Carriage Service of Champaign. The two visited Mahomet during Village Christmas in December. Clydesdale Jill, along with driver Martin Saupe, provided 10-minute rides.
Beth and Martin Saupe plan to visit Mahomet from 5 to 8 p.m. on May 26, June 23, July 28 and August 25. Adults may ride for $10, and children ages 3 to 12 may do so for $5, while those under 3 are free.
"Mahomet has a wonderful farm community feel to it, but there's also many other things happening here," Beth Saupe said.
Andy Hart, JT Walker's marketing and brand director and graphic designer, said the JT Walker's crew prepared for the event for roughly a year.
Hart was excited with the more than 30 breweries participating compared to last year's 17.
"Incorporating the chamber helped with several new aspects such as getting the food trucks and the barbeque competition," Hart said.
His favorite part of the event included meeting numerous people and seeing new breweries check out Mahomet.
"Like 350 Brewing Company," Hart said. "They're out of Chicago and they never pour out of Chicago, so them being here is awesome."
Having been with JT Walker's for more than four years, Hart also realized the importance of the festival in bringing a spotlight to downtown Mahomet.
"It brings recognition to the town," he said. "It brings recognition to small businesses with all of the people walking by and obviously, it helps our restaurant and brewery. So many local businesses take in exposure from this."