Arts & Events » Arts and Culture

Beyond Beers

Richmond’s sixth Heart & Soul Fest takes over City Stadium on Saturday, July 30.

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After five years of putting together the Heart & Soul Brewfest each July, the ladies behind the Richmond Black Restaurant Experience faced a pleasant dilemma: Their event had outgrown its venue.

Typically, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery plays host to the party. But this year, with the construction of condos at the newly dubbed ‘brewers row’ blocking its expansion, Heart & Soul is making the move to City Stadium for its Saturday, July 30th celebration.

With the new location comes a new branding as well. Organizers are dropping the “brew” from the fest’s name and expanding the on-site activities beyond beer. That doesn’t mean that folks’ favorites from Hardywood will be unavailable, however.

The Heart & Soul Shandy will return to the Hardywood beer truck, as well as the Black is Beautiful double coffee imperial stout [update: the latter has officially sold out]. Proceeds from the second beer went to the RBRE foundation, which provides assistance to Black business owners in need. The most recent allotment from the fund covered $500 in repairs for a food truck owner whose vehicle jackknifed on the highway and suffered severe damage.

The relocation to City Stadium also serves as something of a symbolic return to a sacred space among Richmond’s Black community.

“When the Armstrong-Walker Classic used to be held there people would wear full-length mink coats and their Sunday best to the game,” explains Amy Wentz, one of three RBRE founders alongside Kelli Lemon and Shemicia Bowen. By leaning on the legacy of the historic high school football rivalry, “we’re trying to reclaim spaces that Black people used to convene at and have shied away from in the past,” she adds.

When RBRE reached out to the Richmond Kickers and the Virginia Tourism Corporation to support the Heart and Soul Fest at a new location, both jumped at the opportunity. The hope is that plenty of people outside Richmond will come to enjoy the festivities, which run from 3 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, and stay for the night or a weekend getaway.

With an interactive makerspace, live art, a pop-up Richmond Night Market, and an all-day line-up of local DJs and bands, there will be plenty of entertainment and activities. The main stage for music will be set up at centerfield so folks can utilize the stadium seating and avoid lugging around their own chairs. Performers will include DJ Lonnie B, the Legacy Band, DJ Markus Gold, Orange Ice, DJ Rayvon, and Aliyah the DJ.

Folks just looking for food will find more than they could try in just one day. Scattered throughout the stadium grounds will be a series of stations, each serving up a different style of food for visitors. Although RBRE is best known for the dozens of restaurants the organization highlights, “this year we're trying to give more opportunities to caterers and food trucks to make some money,” says Wentz.

The Backyard BBQ station will feature barbecue food trucks, a petting zoo, and a mechanical bull for anyone brave enough to hop on its back. The Summer Soul Food station will focus on comfort food trucks, family style dining, and an activity organized by the Afrikana Film Fest. While the Caribbean Carnival station will offer up Jamaican and West Indian dishes, the Sweet Eats station will showcase dessert vendors. Lastly, the Air Fair station will have folks’ favorite state fair fare plus bouncy castles, mini golf, and a slip-and-slide.

To access all the fun, guests can choose from two tiers of tickets: the $10 general admission or the $50 VIP passes. Those who opt for the top-tier ticket will enjoy entrance to the fest an hour early at 2 p.m., a free beer, center stage stadium seating, expedited line entry, and a koozie to use for all their drinks.

Although the Heart & Soul Fest began as a way to introduce Black people to the local craft brewing scene and underscore the absence of Black-owned breweries around town, the celebration has taken on a life of its own and grown beyond RBRE’s expectations.

“There should be something happening every weekend where we have space curated by Black people and welcome to all, while still speaking to our culture,” Wentz says. “With the Heart and Soul Fest, we want everyone to be able to witness and experience that.”

The 2022 Heart & Soul Fest will be held on Saturday, July 30th at City Stadium, 3201 Maplewood Ave. Tickets can be purchased here. Free parking at the stadium is on a first-come basis, and attendees are encouraged to take GRTC Routes 20, 5, and 78 to the event.