Wednesday, August 15, 2018
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How we scored more than 2 free beers from Busch Gardens back in the day

Today is the day Busch Gardens brings back free cups of beer, two each,  for all its guests older than 21. It’s for a limited time, but free beer can make people do some pretty stupid things. When I got the news, I recalled one of my funniest Busch Gardens memories. That time we wasted about an hour and a half plotting and winning more than our fair share of free beer in the theme park’s Hospitality House.

For 50 years, one of the coolest things about a visit to Busch Gardens was it's hearty sample of former owner Anheuser-Busch's brewskis. And these weren't those puny two-finger samples you get at most beer tastings. This was a full 7-ounce cup of beer. And you could have two of them!

I was a dumb 20-something then, visiting the park with my husband and another couple. But I'm a mother now, so I have no problem outing our wicked ways as a cautionary tale to both the park and the guests. Here's my confession.

From our archives in 2006, bartender Pete Scalzo pours patrons beer at the hospitality house at Busch Gardens on June 26, 2006. The park offers two free beers from the Hospitality House to all patrons 21 and over. Photo by KELVIN MA

As we sipped our first freebie that day in the mid-1990s, we joked about how we could probably scam some more pretty easily. There were two servers so we started first by getting two beers from the first server. Then we each quietly got in the second servers line. Score! Then we went back to the first server, but this time we mixed up the couples. Then the other gal put on a jacket and I put up my hair.

Just as we figured we reached a limit to our disguises, there was a shift change. Heavens, we had all new servers. Time to repeat the whole process again.

Mind you, we had spent about $30 each to get into the park that day. So instead of seeing a show or riding a roller coaster, we wasted half the afternoon getting the equivalent of about 3 full beers. Now that park admission has surpassed the $100 mark, that kind of time management is especially wasteful.

At the press conference Monday at Busch Gardens where they announced the free beer promotion, which runs May 1 through Aug. 5,  I told park president Stewart Clark of my wicked past and asked him how he planned to stop people like me. "With top-notch training," he said. But then Clark added with a twinkle, "I'll make sure they have a picture of you behind the counter."

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at [email protected] Follow @SharonKWn.

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