Combining tasty drinks plus supporting community outreach, Top Mixologist was a win-win for everyone. The first of a new annual event, the fundraiser brought in over $10,000 for the Academy’s Community Outreach Initiative.
Top Mixologist was a Willy Wonka themed event showcasing five local bartenders as they mix candy-themed cocktails. Guests were able to sample each drink and vote on their favorite.
The winner was Sasha Cash from RA Bistro, the only female bartender to compete.
“I was thrilled to be able to compete beside amazing bartenders who have been in the game years beyond my own experience,” Sasha Cash said. “That aspect along with being the only female motivated and challenged me. The guys definitely knew what they were doing and there is a lot I could learn from all of them. It was humbling and exciting to have won.”
Cash especially enjoyed not just interacting with a crowd, but getting to dress up like an Oompa Loompa.
“The crowd was so fun and had so much energy,” Cash said. “I was definitely feeding off their energy and reactions and it was all around just a good time for a great cause.”
For other aspiring bartenders out there, Cash says, “My main tip for future bartenders that are participating is to just have fun with what you’re doing. People see the excitement that you not only have for your craft, but for them, and they respond positively and get excited as well. Just remember WHY it is you love what you do and let that motivate you. People are drawn to passion and charisma. I believe being a mixologist is more than just being able to make awesome and creative drinks, but it’s about how you can get other people to feel connected with what you have created.”
Top Mixologist was the brainchild of Mary Dalton who thought up the event for the Academy’s Community Outreach. The idea to make it Willy Wonka-themed came from a donation of an eight-pound chocolate bar by Cao Artisan Chocolates to the Academy last fall. One lucky guest found the golden ticket inside one of the Academy tumblers for sale and got to take home the delicious chocolate bar. The tumblers helped raise funds and offered participants more bartender votes to stir up the competition.
“The Top Mixology concept evolved from the Academy’s historic food showcase fundraiser, Palettes & Palates,” Dalton explains. “Although P&P was a wildly successful event, it was time to freshen up the spring fundraiser, and a bartender showcase seemed to be the perfect evolution. Fuse the two ideas together and you get Top Mixologist of The Burg: Willy Wonka-style.”
Guest James Peery said, “The Top Mixologist event at the Academy was an absolute blast! It’s great to see the Academy Center of the Arts becoming more and more a part of Downtown. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
Events like Mixology is just one way the Academy works with the Lynchburg community. Recognizing that the arts can address our community’s social issues, the Academy’s Community Outreach Initiative works to offer educational resources and community enrichment initiatives to our underserved population. This multifaceted arts activity offers education to the community, some aids in public safety, and overall improves the quality of life.
“The funds from Top Mixology are an important part of the Academy’s Community Outreach Initiative,” Director of Community Outreach, Evan Smith explains. “They help make current programs like Hill City Keys, which places decorated pianos throughout downtown Lynchburg, possible as well as new programs for the future that reach those in need. The arts should be accessible to all, and this fundraiser helped push the needle forward to make that a reality.”
The Academy’s outreach includes a number of programs and offerings, including scholarships for those unable to afford classes and camps, arts programming in area public schools, discounted rental fees for area nonprofits, and ticket giveaways to performances. These programs and offerings help the Academy be an accessible, inclusive space that truly serves the greater Lynchburg community through arts and culture.
Thank you to all of our wonderful bartenders:
Josh Evans – Isabella’s
Gavin Angus – Dish
Bob Rygielski – Jimmy’s on the James
Sasha Cash – RA Bistro
Clay Burtner – The Corner
If you are interested in becoming a Top Mixologist bartender in the future please contact the Academy. We hope to make this an annual event and would love for you to showcase your talent to support Community Outreach.
A special thank you to our event sponsors for making Top Mixologist such a success; Appalachian Power, Member One Federal Credit Union, Dodson Pest Control, WNRN, and Gentry Locke Attorneys.
View all the photos from the event here facebook.com/AtTheAcademy/photos/topmixologist
By Chad Denton
Thank you to Baird Financial, Walmart Foundation, and the Genworth Foundation for helping to make community outreach possible. Learn more about the Academy’s Community Outreach Programs: academycenter.org/community-outreach