The fun at the 96th National Convention on Aug. 24 in Charlotte, N.C., didn't stop with the convention parade. Founding Fathers Brewing Co. - the Minnesota-based company that recently agreed to donate a portion of its sales to Legion posts - sponsored a post-parade party near the parade disbanding point, across from the Charlotte Convention Center.
When the company was invited to participate in this year's convention, Founding Fathers seized on the party as a place "where we can play a role," said retired Marine Corps. Lt. Col. Bob Stephenson, vice president of military sales for Founding Fathers. "It's the only event where everyone is in the same place."
The convention is the first real opportunity for the company to showcase its relationship with the Legion. In the Exhibit Hall, Founding Fathers t-shirts and pint glasses are on sale; convention-goers can spin a wheel for a chance at a free beer, and staff members occasionally dress up like their revolutionary counterparts to make the rounds. Stephenson estimated that through Sunday, the booth had made connections "in the hundreds ... if not the thousands." He added, "It's a lot of fun."
Stephenson has personally attended six department conventions in the last few months and is happy with the kickoff of the relationship. "I expected great things and great things are happening," he said, adding he is enjoying "exposure to members from all around the country to our beers and our alliance with The American Legion .... This is a great organization with great people."
At the party, people milled around open tables in the parking lot across from the convention center. A near-perimeter was formed by area food trucks, and Founding Fathers had a truck of its own to dispense beer. Music was provided by the Hickabillies; according to their Facebook page, "the original Iraqi garage band" was formed while the members were serving in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. At one point, the bridge from "Ring of Fire" could be heard on what sounded suspiciously like a kazoo.
The good weather that had held up during the parade continued at the party. Arla Roth, an incoming Auxiliary department president from North Dakota, commented, "I think the party's good. And the music's good." Founding Fathers is in the process of rolling out to all 50 states but is already available in hers; she said by way of preview, "I love it. I drink Founding Fathers as often as I can."
Byron Comeaux of Louisiana also praised the brewmaker. "The beer is going down smoothly," he said. "After nine blocks (walking in the parade), it's refreshing." He and his group brought 10 disabled veterans to the convention from the Magnolia Care Center in Baton Rouge, La., who had also taken part in the parade and were now enjoying the party.