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December 22, 2014

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Beer brings cheer

Thirsty fans fill stands at Cashman Field for Las Vegas 51s’ $1 brewski promotion — two at a time per customer, please

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Leila Navidi

Co-workers Sadie Everts, from left, Julia Stevens, Kelly Chenin, and Sarah Dziuba enjoy their 12 oz. dollar beers during Dollar Beer Night at Cashman Field for the Las Vegas 51’s game against the Portland Beavers. The ladies work together at the Cheesecake Factory in Henderson.

Cold Beer

Bob Roik, a Nevada Beverage draft sales rep, picks up empty kegs of beer at Cashman Field. Launch slideshow »

Beyond the Sun

Blu Sandford takes his position behind the bar on the concourse behind home plate Thursday at Cashman Field and braces himself for his sixth Dollar Beer Night of the season.

Sandford will be serving customers virtually nonstop from the time the gates open at 6 p.m. until the end of the sixth inning, and the tips will be good.

But Sandford doesn’t especially look forward to Dollar Beer Night, which has become one of the most popular promotions on the 51s schedule.

“Not really,” Sandford says as he stares out between the Budweiser and Bud Light tap handles that will dispense countless cold ones on a warm June evening.

“It’s great for the fans ... but we’re only allowed to serve two beers (per person), and too many people try to find a way to go beyond what the house rules are.”

Although his job during Dollar Beer Night is part bartender and part babysitter, Sandford manages to steer clear of ugly scenes with unruly customers.

“People just get a little crazy sometimes and you have to keep them in check,” he says. “Keep them in good humor and everything usually goes smooth.”

Mike Marshanke has been working as a roving beer vendor at Cashman Field for 20 years. He’s one of the guys hawking $4.75 beers (in 16-ounce aluminum bottles) in the stands while Sandford and others are drawing $1 beers in 12-ounce plastic cups on the concourse. One would think Dollar Beer Night would be Marshanke’s least favorite promotion, but that isn’t the case.

“I like it,” he says as he sips on a Red Bull to prepare for the evening. “Some of the Dollar Beer Nights are my better nights.

“It’s a little slow in the beginning for the beer, but it picks up because a lot of people don’t want to wait in the long lines.”

It doesn’t take long for those lines to form. Fifteen minutes before the start of the game, customers are lined up 20 deep at one of the temporary concession stands on the left-field concourse.

Things are a little quieter down the right-field line, where full-time college students and part-time bartenders Brooke Buchignani and Julie Ludlow are in charge of the portable beer stand that overlooks the 51s’ bullpen. But the lull doesn’t last long; Buchignani and Ludlow will change their first keg with one out in the top of the first inning as the crowd continues to trickle into the stadium.

“It’s pretty fast-paced,” Ludlow says of Dollar Beer Nights, the only games she and Buchignani work at Cashman. “It goes by fast.”

“It’s all fun and the crowd’s really nice,” Buchignani adds.

Most in the crowd of 7,645 are well-behaved and there appears to be little trouble for 51s security chief Nick Fitzenreider and his staff. And that’s just the way Marty Linde likes it.

Linde, a special events marketer for Budweiser distributor Nevada Beverage, said his company works closely with stadium concessionaire Aramark to ensure that fans drink “safely and responsibly” and that nobody under the age of 21 gets served a beer.

“We want these fans back,” he says. “We want them all to have a good experience.”

Just as all Cashman concession workers do, Buchignani and Ludlow check the ID of every customer before serving him beer — even the distinguished gray-haired gentleman who looks as if he could be a grandfather.

“We’re really big on that,” Ludlow says, pointing to the “We I.D.” badge pinned to her shirt. “Some people get offended, but it’s better than having 18-year-olds going home in handcuffs.”

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