By Jared Curtis
Drink before dawn at annual event
Throughout the year a number of fun and intoxicating events take place in our bustling city. From our own event, Brewfest, to countless others, chances are you’ll find something fun to do every month, if not every weekend. But one event brings out the crowds like no other — the annual Groundhog Day celebration at the High Life Lounge.
“This was the second place we opened, and we wanted to have a big celebration,” said Jeff Bruning, a partner with Full Court Press, which owns el Bait Shop and The Royal Mile, among others. “What started as an anniversary event has become a yearly destination.”
Although the event hasn’t changed much from its beginnings, fans continue to pack the place no matter the obstacle.
“Our first year we were half full before the event even started, but we couldn’t sell beer until 6 a.m.,” Bruning said. “One year, the power was out in downtown, but we were completely full. We put up a couple flood lights, and everyone had a blast.”
The 7th annual event starts bright and early at 6 a.m. From opening to 8 a.m., patrons can enjoy free High Life beer, with breakfast specials (pancakes, biscuits and gravy, Spam and Ham casserole) being served until noon. Special commemorative T-shirts ($16) are also available, but supplies are limited. Around 7:30 a.m., Polk County Paula and the High Life Moon Lady (famous beer logo) show up in the High Life bus, and Paula announces if she has seen her shadow or not, predicting the number of days left in winter.
“I believe last year Paula predicted six more weeks of beer specials,” Bruning said.
What some people would assume is an excuse to drink before the sun comes up has turned into a yearly event that is faithfully attended.
“There are new people every year, but there are also a lot of people that have been here every year,” Bruning said. “We originally started it as a cabin fever event to get people out of the house, but it has grown into a mid-winter, St. Patrick’s Day type of situation.”
Sure, 6 a.m. might sound a little early to tip back a cold one, but even if you don’t feel like drinking, you should experience Groundhog Day.
“It happens before most people have to go to work, so a lot of people stop in, have a beer and some breakfast, see Paula and then head to the office,” Bruning said. “It’s also a great day to call in sick.”
As the Iowa winter sets in, the itch to get out and celebrate grows. There’s no better way to scratch that itch, than celebrating Groundhog Day.
“It’s such a fun event, and I can’t think of a better way to start your morning than with beer and pancakes,” Bruning said.
Neither can we. CV
Caption: Attendees celebrate with Polk County Paula during the 7th Annual Groundhog Day celebration at the High Life Lounge, 200 S.W. 2nd St. The event takes place on Wednesday, Feb. 2, starting with free beer at 6 a.m.