By Katie Benfield
Who could’ve imagined that the small ski competition that took place in Appalachian Mountain Brewery’s backyard would have turned into a huge event at the Daniel Boone Amphitheater a mere two years later?
Danny Wilcox, Director of Retail Operations at AMB, could have and did.
The idea originally began in Wilcox’s head due to a visit to Morgantown, WV, where he witnessed a similar event in the middle of the university campus in town. He fell in love with the idea of having a ski competition in the center of a town due to the fact that it brings a community together and exposes people to sports, events and audiences that they might not otherwise have.
“It always stood out to me as such a unique community event that they put on that brought the ski mountain to the town where people might not have ever seen that kind of activity or sport,” Wilcox said, “but also gave the riders a chance to perform to an audience that they don’t usually have.”
With such a unique and interesting idea in his brain, there was no way Wilcox would allow it to remain a small event on the stretch of grass outside of AMB.
“My goal after that first year was to, within three years, have it become a Town of Boone event as well,” Wilcox said.
Although the Rail Jam has reached the goals that Wilcox had in mind from the start, it didn’t always look quite so pretty when it first started out.
“It definitely wasn’t necessarily the best looking ski slope,” Wilcox said. “But it was enough for the kids to slide down and have a competition with it.”
The first year, while exciting and adventurous, was configured by only three people: Wilcox, Drew Stanley, the Marketing Director at App Ski Mountain, and Matt Vincent from Vincent Properties. The three of them had the brilliant idea to have the competition, and with just their effort, they were able to pull it off.
“It was good enough for us to be able to look at it and think, ‘we could make something great from this’,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox was right—they did make something great from it. However, with the help of other various sponsors around the High Country, Wilcox’s goal was reached in a matter of two years, resulting in an amazing and much-anticipated ski event in the middle of Boone.
“This year we partnered with Boone TDA and also the Town of Boone, and we thought, ‘let’s see what this event can do at a much larger venue’,” Wilcox said.
While Wilcox had been previously working with sponsors and co-founders of the event, partnering with the Town of Boone supplied him with resources he may not have otherwise had.
“He’s been doing it successfully for two years,” Pilar Fotta, Director of Cultural Resources for the Town of Boone, said. “So successfully that he just needed a bigger venue.”
The larger venue they were mulling over in their minds was none other than the Daniel Boone Amphitheater, the amphitheater in Boone that was built in the 1950’s and has such a beautiful and historical history within the community, and thus, the Daniel Boone Rail Jam was created.
“It’s a venue owned by the Town of Boone,” Wilcox said, “I thought it would just be such a unique experience to have a ski competition on.”
Not only that, but all the proceeds raised from the event will go back into the revitalization of the Daniel Boone Amphitheater so that it can be used for other events that will benefit and bring the community together.
“It’s such a beautiful place. It’s right in the center of town, and there’s ample parking,” Fotta said. “It seems like a natural place to do programming.”
AMB recently founded a nonprofit titled We Can So You Can Foundation through which all of their fundraising events are held. It was founded in order to provide people a way to get involved who may not necessarily want to be involved with an organization that is centered around beer.
The Rail Jam is a fundraising event that is hosted through We Can So You Can Foundation, sponsored by AMB, along with a variety of other local businesses.
“Skyline Skybest is one that really stepped up this year, they are bringing in a whole television crew so it can be televised on cable television on the Skyline Skybest channels, live,” Wilcox said.
Along with Skyline Skybest, Mellow Mushroom is donating $2000 worth of food to the event. At the beginning of the event, they are giving out bracelets to 500 people, and when each of those 500 people take those bracelets into Mellow Mushroom, they get a free pizza simply from attending the event. A printing company from Hickory is also involved through creating and printing banners for the event to hang around the amphitheater. The Local extended a helping hand in the event by providing the venue for the After Party.
“The After Party is going to be at the local, and we’ve actually rented the trolley bus from Blowing Rock, which can fit about 50 people, so we can transport everyone safely,” Wilcox said. “It’s all about being responsible, celebrating the competitors, and bringing more people into the town and helping other businesses out.”
Mast General Store has also had a large hand in promoting, both on social media and in the store, this event. They held an online giveaway that was entered by 700 people in order to win tickets to the Daniel Boon Rail Jam.
“They’re an outdoor store that wants to help an outdoor event,” Wilcox said. “They’ve made a huge contribution.”
However, it wasn’t always fun and games. Wilcox had to go through a couple of steps in order to be able to hold this event at the Daniel Boone Amphitheater. He had to present his idea to the town council and get its approval before moving on. His first presentation was on December 15th, and it was approved without surprise.
“It’s been such a great partnership. It’s been great working with [Wilcox],” Fotta said. “We need to do upgrades here, but we just don’t have the money to do those upgrades, and that’s why this partnership has worked out so well.”
It’s not just the amphitheater that is benefitting from this partnership, however.
“What is really unique about this event is that we can show that the local government within the town can work with a private business and collaborate and do something great together,” Wilcox said. “I think it might bring light to other companies that might be able to work with the town and collaborate and come together to make something great.”
The Town of Boone as a whole has loved working with Wilcox on creating something amazing and that has brought the community of the High Country together for a day of fun while also raising money to enhance and take care of the Daniel Boone Amphitheater.
“We really want to do more programming and bring more people out,” Fotta said. “We want people to come out, we want them to come to Boone, we want them to stay all seasons, all the time.”
Because this event is all about bringing the town together and emphasizing a sense of local community, it is possible to get into the event for free by simply volunteering for one hour at a local nonprofit and bringing a signed sheet to the event.
“If you don’t have the money to pay the entry fee, you can donate your time to charity,” Wilcox said. “Or if you just want to volunteer in general, your entry is free into the event.”
Whether it’s the Town of Boone providing ladders or the Homebuilders Association helping move the snow from the parking lot to the amphitheater, the amount of cooperation that can be seen between the various businesses and people involved is inspiring.
“It’s amazing—the community effort,” Wilcox said. “It’s what this whole event is about.”
In the future, the We Can So You Can Foundation wants to put on some sort of cider event at the Daniel Boone Amphitheater sometime in early September in order to promote and support local farmer’s markets.
The Daniel Boone Rail Jam is taking place at the Daniel Boone Amphitheater on Saturday, Jan. 21 from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. with live music starting at 4 p.m. There is an afterparty at The Local from 11 p.m. onwards. Tickets for the event are $5 general admission, $20 for competitors, and $55 for VIP ticket options.
Daniel Boone Rail Jam Schedule:
4 p.m. – Live music with Matt Bizzell
5 p.m. – Intermediate/Women’s/Advanced ski and snowboard competition
7 p.m. – Intermediate/Women’s/Advanced finals
9 p.m. – Awards ceremony
11 p.m. – After party at The Local