Center Grove founders look to bring Greenwood’s best in wine, art, music and microbrewing
By Jeremy Dunn
In 2006, the Sertoma Club of Greenwood gave birth to an idea. The 40-member club, with a focus on serving mankind through fundraising and giving back to the community, was brainstorming ideas for an event that would appeal to the greater Greenwood community unlike anything that had ever been done before. Johnson County attorney and club member John Reames recalled, “A member mentioned that aside from the Freedom Festival, organized by the city, no civic organization had put together a community festival. We knew that such an idea would need approval and cooperation of a number of city government agencies.”
Soon Reames, attorney Joyce Nies and retail banker Jeff Goben, all Center Grove residents, were appointed to seek the approval of then Greenwood Mayor Charlie Henderson, the parks board and department, along with police and fire departments, for a festival that would offer something for almost any resident of the city. The trio’s pitch… WAMMfest.
Not a ‘Careless Whisper’
Do not let the name fool you: WAMMfest is not an ‘80s pop revival with George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, founders of the band Wham!, urging Greenwood residents to “wake me up before you go-go” and not “leave me hanging on like a yo-yo.” Instead, the Sertoma Club trio of Goben, Nies and Reames envisioned a festival that would embrace Greenwood’s very best in wine, art, music and microbrewing. The concept won over city leaders and this August, WAMMfest will celebrate its 10th year in Greenwood.
Nies, a former president of the Sertoma Club, said, “I have heard attendees describe WAMMfest as a big block party. I know people come every year and whether they internalize it as such, I believe being there gives them a sense of community.” Reames added, “WAMMfest was conceived as a festival that has something to interest everyone. I think Greenwood has come to look forward to it annually.”
Big bucks, no whammies
In the 1980s, the game show Press Your Luck had contestants hoping to land “big bucks” and avoid “whammies.” However, since its inaugural event in 2008, WAMMfest has raised over $700,000 for the Sertoma Club of Greenwood to donate back to community organizations. Recently, the club’s offerings have contributed to Greenwood’s first Splash Pad and City Center Park at 415 Lincoln St.
The popular festival does not look to slow down in 2018, with its founding trio looking to bring in some of the biggest local names in wine, art, music and microbrewing. Goben shared in the excitement. “We have various members of our club that chair the different committees. With this being our 10th anniversary of WAMMfest, we have established a wonderful event that artists and vendors want to be a part of and we are very proud of that,” he said.
Some of this year’s vendors include local powerhouses Mallow Run Winery, Centerpoint Brewing Company, Mashcraft Brewery, Oaken Barrel Brewery, Sun King Brewery and Taxman Brewing. There will be numerous food trucks and local eateries looking to entice attendees’ taste buds, while the music scene will also be well represented as the sounds of Exit 99, Blue River Band, Toy Factory, Woomblies Rock Orchestra, The Spazmatics and Hairbangers Ball plan to rock Craig Park.
Reames believes the festival’s success over the past 10 years has caught the attention of vendors and performers across Indianapolis. “Originally, we went looking (for vendors and acts),” he said. “Anymore, by and large, they’re coming looking for us.”
Bring on WAMMfest
The Sertoma Club of Greenwood will host this year’s WAMMfest on Saturday, Aug. 18 from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. at Craig Park. Goben feels the festival’s communication with club members and vendors will lead to another successful event. “We always brainstorm with our club members immediately after the annual event. We determine what we need to do to improve the event so it will continue to be the best of the best. We value the suggestions of the vendors and patrons and if they have a suggestion that improves WAMMfest, we implement it,” he said.
Nies is interested to see how one of those suggestions helps with the large expected crowds this year. “This year, we are locating the microbreweries and wineries all together under large tents. We have received feedback from some of those vendors in the past encouraging us to do that as it is done at other beer/wine festivals. I am looking forward to see how this works and if our attendees embrace it or not,” she said.
Tickets are available for $15 in advance at any Ray Skillman location, Greenwood Public Library, Greenwood Community Center, all Johnson County Horizon branch locations and the Citizens Bank County Line branch. Children under the age of 12 will be free and tickets can also be purchased for $20 at the gates.
Best of the best
When asked if WAMMfest truly represents the best that the Southside community has to offer, the festival’s founding trio stood confident in their answers. “Absolutely,” Reames replied. Nies added, “Definitely. No other festival combines all of those for the purpose of fundraising. We try to enlighten attendees to that fact. Please help us remind people of what the profits from WAMMfest have done for the community. It’s so much more than having fun.” Goben concluded, “WAMMfest just keeps getting better and better each year based on the great reputation we have established and the commitment we have to providing a great event. It’s truly a first-class event.”
While you may not be greeted by the upbeat pop anthem, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, this WAMMfest has a little something for everyone. Most importantly, as Nies attested to, the reaches of this event reach far beyond a Saturday of fun in the park. This festival makes a difference. This festival gives back to the local community.
THIS is WAMMfest.
5 Questions with the founders of WAMMfest: Jeff Goben, Joyce Nies and John Reames
- How long have you been living in the Center Grove community and what drew you to it? What is your favorite part about living in Center Grove?
Goben: I have lived in the Center Grove area for 46 years and I have been a member of the Sertoma Club of Greenwood for almost 32 years. The Center Grove area has lots to offer from a great school system, churches, shopping and entertainment but most of all we like the friendly people.
Nies: 16 years. We moved into this area when we built a new home. We live close to our grandchildren.
Reames: 26 years. Center Grove is inviting and friendly, and the school system is beyond great. It is a great place to run a business and raise a family. My wife and I had many friends that lived in the area those many years ago and we wanted to be a part of it.
- If you could only listen to one album for the next year, what would you pick and why?
Goben: I’m old school, so it would have to be The Beatles, as I grew up with their music.
Nies: Everyone will groan but I used to come home on Friday night after a long work week and mix an adult beverage and put on Rod Stewart. I don’t think I could listen to that one album for an entire year, and by the way, he is in concert on the day of WAMMfest and I will be missing Rod. I’ve really gotten into Country and like Kelsea Ballerini, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line.
Reames: Tough question. I’m a Beatles, Chicago and Eagles fanatic. “Rubber Soul” is a classic. If I had to choose one that would probably be it. Although if you asked me next week, my answer might be “Chicago Transit Authority”, Chicago’s first album, or “Hotel California.”
- It is Friday night and you are relaxing. What drink would be found in your hand?
Goben: You will usually find my wife and I having dinner at the bar at Stone Creek on Friday nights. Most likely, in the summer I’d be sipping on a gin and tonic and in the winter a scotch and water.
Nies: My signature drink is an Absolut Mandarin and diet tonic with an orange slice.
Reames: Probably a margarita. Friday night tends to be our night for Mexican food.
- What is your favorite form of artwork?
Goben: I love the creativity of the various artists. Last year, we had an artist that made various things out of cigar boxes. I personally can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, so the creativity the various artists have make me appreciate their great talents.
Nies: I like the impressionist oil or acrylic. It’s dreamlike… not quite in focus with more than one possible story.
Reames: Music in general is my favorite form of art. My mother had a beautiful operatic kind of voice. I remember as a kid walking home for lunch from school and hearing her singing to her own piano playing from the sidewalk in front of our house. That is one of my fondest memories. She is, more than anyone, responsible.
- What is the best advice you have ever received?
Goben: Every day is a gift, so live life to the fullest.
Nies: This too shall pass.
Reames: Even if you aren’t religious, it’s still pretty hard to beat the golden rule.