Jim Miro spent Thursday evening enjoying some beers with friends in Olan Thomas Park as their kids played cornhole nearby.
The park, located at the corner of Cleveland Avenue and Paper Mill Road, is a place Miro had never given a second thought before hearing about the city of Newark’s new Parks on Draft pop-up beer garden.
“It’s not somewhere you’d normally come hang out,” Miro said. “This makes it not a walk-through park but a stop-through park.”
That sentiment is exactly what city officials were hoping for when they chose Olan Thomas Park as the first location for Parks on Draft, which is intended to become an event series that will rotate between different parks around the city next summer.
Thursday marked the first of four days for the pop-up beer garden, which is a collaboration between the Newark Parks and Recreation Department and Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen.
City officials said the family-friendly event is intended to highlight the city’s park system, capitalize on the trend of outdoor beer gardens, bring new people to town, support businesses during the Main Street construction and raise money for the parks department.
“We need to attract a younger audience into town,” Mayor Jerry Clifton said. “We need to attract a 25-to-45-year-old who’s going to come into town, see the great value of living in a town as vibrant and dynamic as Newark is and want to actually buy a house here.”
Announced just three days prior, the event drew a bigger crowd than Jim O'Donoghue, co-owner of Grain, expected. He estimated that between 300 and 400 people attended Thursday, some stopping by for a quick drink and others hanging out for hours.
“We had people here from the minute we started tapping the beer,” O'Donoghue said, noting that one guy who was biking through the park told him he timed his ride to arrive at the park at 4 p.m. for a beer.
Many attendees brought lawn chairs, while others sat in the grass to listen as Brad Herring, a musician from Chester County, Pa., performed an acoustic set.
“It’s just been a cool vibe,” O'Donoghue said, adding that he expects the crowd to increase Friday and Saturday.
Dori Capretta came to the event with friends Laura Johnson, Judy Christensen and Maria Argain.
“We love outdoor concerts and getting together with friends,” Capretta said.
“We didn’t even know this park had a name,” Christensen added.
Parks on Draft will continue Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Free parking is available at Curtis Mill Park and Old Paper Mill Park.
Grain will offer craft beer and food for sale. Rainbow Records will spin records on Saturday, and Empowered Yoga will offer free classes on Sunday. Takeout from nearby Wood Fired Pizza will be available, as well.