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Blues Fest benefits HIV/AIDS group

Beer fests and concerts in Charlottesville may be nothing new, but the 3WV/Saab Blues and Brews Fest '99 benefits a good cause - Charlottesville's AIDS/HIV Services Group.

Sponsored by Saab and hosted by 3WV (97.5 FM), tomorrow's annual event will be held at the Charlottesville Downtown Amphitheater from 2 to 7 p.m. Its drawing power is self-explanatory: Microbreweries and blues music.

Now in its third year, the Blues and Brews Fest will "feature breweries from Seattle and Boston ... as well as local breweries," said Michelle Conner, a 3WV spokesperson and festival organizer.

The beer sampling packs, which can be bought beforehand at 3WV, Brown Saab and Kroger/Rio Hill, include four six ounce samples and a commemorative beer mug for $9.75 in advance or $12 at the gate.

Blues fans under 21 or people who are not beer aficionados can drink Shenandoah Water, the event's "official non-alcoholic beverage," Conner said.

All proceeds will benefit ASG, an organization devoted to supporting HIV-positive people.

Our "primary objective is to support people with AIDS/HIV in this area ... [by] providing medical, housing and emotional assistance, referral services and food," ASG Financial Director Maggie MacInnis said.

ASG serves over 500 clients and educates thousands more in Charlottesville and the surrounding counties, ASG Development Director Amber Viejo said.

The Virginia Department of Health noted in 1998 that urban HIV cases have decreased, but continue to increase in rural areas, Viejo said.

The money raised also will be used to promote HIV/AIDS prevention education.

Last year, the event raised $11,000 for ASG, she said.

The event began in 1997 when 3WV approached ASG with their idea for a benefit festival.

"It was their idea, their creation," Viejo said. "Of all the local non-profits, they chose ASG."

ASG Volunteer Coordinator Beatrice Lee contacted University student organizations for help - and as a result, members from Promoting Negativity, St. Elmo's Hall and Alpha Phi Omega are volunteering at the event, among others .

Event coordinators said they have high expectations for this year's festival.

"Two years ago, we had 4,500 people; last year we had over 6,000," Conner said.

ASG planners expect the attendance to grow this year.

"This is the first year U.Va. students will not be on Fall Break," Viejo said. "We actually have a lot of U.Va. students who are going to be volunteers, so they'll probably bring in a lot of their friends."

The event requires at least 100 volunteers, about 40 of which are University students, she said.

Promoting Negativity, a student organization dedicated to preventing the spread of HIV, is not participating officially in the Blues & Brews Fest, but its members will be at the Fest in an informal group and some will serve as volunteers, said Thomas Kennedy, Promoting Negativity spokesperson and third-year College student.

Volunteers represent a full cross-section of the Charlottesville/Albemarle community, and include "everyone from retirees to students," MacInnis said.

The Fest will feature several blues bands, including Villanova Junction and the Ian Gilliam and Danny Morris bands. Cork, a blues group that includes former members of the Spin Doctors, will headline the concert.

So patrons can enjoy their beer, Brown Saab even offers rides home with a chauffeur. You can also get a free T-shirt if you're one of the first 500 people to buy a sampling pack in advance.

If Charlottesville residents or students can't attend the event, 3WV will be broadcasting live from the festival so they can enjoy their beer and blues at home.