Ham & Yam Festival Will Include Alcohol Sales, With Limits

SMITHFIELD – The Downtown Smithfield Development Corporation asked the Town Council March 5 to permit sales of alcoholic beverages at controlled spots during the upcoming Ham & Yam Festival.

The council voted 4-3 to allow it with the understanding that this is a trial run that could be canceled if things get out of hand.

“I’m not a fan of this,” Councilman Travis Scott declared. “Historically, this is a family event.” Councilman David Barbour said it’s “alienating the church crowd” who “won’t be there” if alcohol is allowed. “It’s sad that we have to legalize vice to enhance attendance,” he added.

John Bilott, who has taken over as the DSDC board chair, acknowledged that the alcohol permit is part of an effort to restore the annual event to its prior prominence. He said the DSDC Promotions Committee has prospects for as many as 200 vendors (four times as many as last year), and for children will is planning for bounce houses, a petting zoo, and “ice cream as far as the eye can see.”

Alcohol sales and consumption, Mr. Bilott said, would be restricted to two defined areas: one on Front Street above the new amphitheater, another near a stage set up in the 100 block of South Third Street. Beer and wine would be sold between noon and 7 p.m., he assured the council.

“I would suggest we do some extra staffing,” advised Councilman Sloan Stevens, who has been meeting with the DSDC committee. “To have areas sectioned off is a good middle ground,” he said. “I’m comfortable with giving it a try.”

Chief of Police Pete Hedrick said his department could handle the extra responsibility of keeping alcohol consumption within bounds. “We’re not attracting the Mule Days crowd,” he added – a reference to the annual Benson festival that has gotten out of hand in years gone by.

Councilman Stevens made the motion to approve the trial run. John Dunn and Steve Rabil also voted yes; Councilmen Barbour, Scott, and Marlon Lee voted no. Mayor Andy Moore broke the tie with an affirmative vote in the absence of Councilman Roger Wood.

The Ham & Yam Festival is scheduled on Saturday, May 4 along Front, Second, Third, and Johnston streets Downtown.

Pre-4th-of-July Event Will Also Include Sales Of Alcohol

The council approved another permit sought by DSDC to allow alcohol to be sold and consumed along the 100 block of South Third Street during a “Red, White, and Brews Festival” on Sunday afternoon, June 30 prior to the town’s annual fireworks show celebrating the Fourth of July.

It’s the same event held there this past year, DSDC Chairman Bilott told the council. Although the permit authorizes the street to be closed to vehicular traffic at 10 a.m. that day, musical entertainment and alcohol sales won’t begin till after noon to avoid conflicting with nearby church services, he said.

Councilman Barbour cast the only vote against issuing that permit.

On another DSDC matter, the council appointed Michael O’Dowd – owner of SoDoSoPa, a Downtown restaurant – to the organization’s Board of Directors.

– Reprinted with permission from The Smithfield Weekly Sun


  1. Some of the church crowd drinks some too… lol. I still don’t approve of alcohol because Ham and Yam is supposedly to be a family friendly event. Setting a bad example for the children.

    • Going to a restaurant with alcohol? Family friend place? Noone I’d forcing anyone to drink it. You do realize all the towns around us already do this?

    • Ham and Yam will still be family friendly. Having craft beer sales does not negate that. Infesnkly don’t understand how you think it does.

    • Yeah, the town of benson is great! Look at all the great things they have in a small town full of drugs and no one doing anything about it! Let’s not forget about high utility rates and the great traffic circle that the “great” leaders chose to do.

  2. Does the drunk attendee have to stay in the “controlled area” or can he walk around after he’s had a few? Maybe be a fool and jump in the bounce house. Amphitheater not a good place to walk after a few too many
    , Reckon?

    • You must not leave the town, many towns around us even have a social district. It’s 2024, and I would assume they will have police. You are one out of a mere few thousands that are negative

    • We have had MANY events in downtown Smithfield where craft beer sales have taken place, ALL without incident. Most people are responsible and we have protocols in place to not over serve.

  3. Take the approach of many theme parks and sporting event venues. Make it expensive, 300 – 500% mark up to deter excessive consumption

  4. I like a beer or few just like the next guy, however, Alcohol don’t have to be included in everything to be a success.

  5. This is almost hysterical after all of you just got done with a booze it and loose it campaign. Seriously, you preach that you can not drink and drive, and then you vote to openly sell alcohol at a family event. And for what, just to get more people to come. I guess yall are figuring everyone will walk there and nobody will drive.

    • So, it is not like we have not had alcohol sales at many other events without incident. You make many false assumptions, one being that all drinkers will be driving. Ever heard of a designated driver?

  6. I past years there has been no shortage of the so called church crowd, sneaking into the LBJ to grab a beer and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Get over it and move ahead people are going to do as they please either way.

  7. I think it is a great idea! We are in the year 2024, you take kids to restaurants, concerts and many other towns already do this.. it’s about time smithfield! Btw noone is being forced to drink. Just like a restaurant that you would go to with your kids

    • RA, you hit the nail on the head. We have had SEVERAL other events in downtown Smirthfield over the years (Rhythm and Brews, 3rd Streatery, Red White and Brews) and no kne seems to complain then. And they brought their kids. It is just a FEW noisy people kicking up a fuss when there really isn’t any fuss to be made.

  8. I think the organizers of the event must have taken into account the results of the surveys that were sent out to the community last year which the absence of beer and wine was a commonly occuring theme. I think it is about time it has been added and fail to see how including it in restricted and monitored areas of the event somehow make the event as a whole not “family friendly”. Every major sporting event, every concert, even when the circus comes to town there is beer and wine available.

  9. I keep hearing about how this “alienates” “the church crowd”. I doubt this is really true. No one is forcing anyone to buy a beer. Have you ever been to the International Food Festival at St Ann’s Catholic Church? They sell and serve beer during this event On Church Grounds! So, this church argument had no merit. If having craft beer made by LOCAL Brewers is going to keep you from coming to enjoy all of the other features of the festival, that is your right and your choice and your loss.

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