GREEN COVE SPRINGS – After a nine-year hiatus, the Ham Jam is close to making a return to Clay County this fall and it’s bringing not only rides and barbecue, but potentially alcohol as well.
The Ham Jam, a local nonprofit event that used to be held every year in Middleburg, ended nine years ago but this fall, it could be returning to a new venue – the Clay County Fairgrounds. While the event is charity in nature, with all proceeds going to BASCA Inc. this year, it still requires a lot of funding to be held. The owners of the Ham Jam, Ronnie Munsey and his wife, Lillian Munsey, are hoping that the sale of alcohol makes funding this event easier than it’s ever been.
“We spend $40,000 to $50,000 on entertainment...and we need this [alcohol], otherwise the people would not come in,” Lillian Munsey said.
Munsey said at the most recent Board of County Commissioners meeting held on Jan. 12 that she has been a business owner with an alcohol license for over 30 years and has never once had any trouble with her businesses and its administration of alcohol. She said she doesn’t expect to have any problems at the Ham Jam either.
To ensure safety and proper administration, Munsey said the Ham Jam plans to have a designated alcohol area.
“We would have a designated area to come in where you would get checked,” Munsey said. “You get checked for your ID and you receive a band, and then you receive a ticket, which you would then go to another section to get your beer or wine.”
According to Munsey, there will only be one area like this with one entrance and one exit. There will be private and police security present to monitor this area to ensure that nobody underage receives or drinks alcohol. This area will be a part of the live entertainment section. Munsey made a point to tell the BCC that people won’t just be walking around the event with alcohol – they’ll only have alcohol in the entertainment area.
During BCC discussion time, Commissioner Gavin Rollins said that while he is opposed to a blanket statement that allows every event at the fairgrounds to sell alcohol, he’d be open to permitting the Ham Jam to sell it this one time.
If this one time goes well, the Ham Jam could see this permission granted in future years and if it doesn’t go well, then the BCC has the right to prohibit future alcohol sales.
“I’m certainly opposed to just a blanket change,” Rollins said. “I think individual events can be taken on a case-by-case basis, but I think this was one of the concerns of the original alcohol ordinance, and I’m not talking about your particular event [Ham Jam], but I think in general, allowing this can become problematic.”
“If we do proceed forward, I would like to see it only as an exemption for this particular event on a one-time basis that would have to be renewed, not a blanket change policy,” Rollins said.
Commissioner Wayne Bolla agreed with Rollins and stated that he thinks Ham Jam is a fantastic event for Clay County. He also said he could see it one day growing to be as large for the county as the Clay County Agricultural Fair.
When it came time for a consensus, the BCC didn’t have a formal vote, but instead agreed to direct the county attorney to look into creating an amendment to the alcohol ordinance that would allow the Ham Jam to serve alcohol this one time. This item will soon return to the BCC where it will be voted on.
After the event, depending on how the trial run goes, the BCC could decide to continue to allow it at future Ham Jams.
Munsey anticipates the Ham Jam taking place this fall with a Thursday evening start. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday with an earlier close on Sunday. There will be over 40 attractions, according to Munsey, over 30 barbecue vendors, live Nashville entertainment and more.