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New Belgium Brewing reveals proposed Napa water park was publicity stunt

A beer-themed water park in Napa sounded too unbelievable to be true, and turns out, it was.

In June, Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing Co., maker of Fat Tire Ale and Voodoo Ranger IPA among other beers, announced plans to open the Voodoo Ranger IPA Action Park in the heart of Napa, complete with “136 acres of beer-powered fun.”

For two months, the idea rankled locals who saw fliers posted at local farmers markets and attended a focus group meeting at downtown Napa hotel Andaz, where a video promoting the park was shown and Voodoo Ranger action figures and pint glasses were given out.

On Monday, the company confirmed on Instagram that the park was a publicity stunt.

New Belgium Chief Marketing Officer Shaun Belongie called the fake park proposal a manifestation of Voodoo Ranger’s “cultural viewpoint.“

“This prank was a fun way to experiment with the cultural tension between the global symbol of exclusivity and “taste” Napa represents, and a growing movement – especially among younger people – that embraces a spirit of inclusivity (and a bit of irreverence) and seeks out spaces where anyone can feel 100% comfortable being their true selves,” Belongie wrote in an email.

The brouhaha (or is it “brew ha-ha”?) began when a website called voodoorangeractionpark.com went online at the beginning of summer.

On the website, attractions such as the “world’s first beer-powered flume ride” and “NorCal’s tallest roller coaster made from reclaimed beer barrels” were promoted with images showing the theme park sitting in the middle of Napa.

The page even included options to email for updates and special offers as well as a number to call, 888-4BEERPARK, to leave comments on the proposed park.

Locals quickly took to the internet to voice their suspicions and concerns, piling on a Reddit thread two months ago to denounce the idea and its legitimacy.

Yet, New Belgium continued with its claims, releasing more social media blasts that read, “The buzzkills of Whine Country want to stop our IPA Action Park. Help us make it happen. Like and share to save the park.”

In July, a group called Not In Napa formed with its own website, Facebook group and petition to fight the park.

Videos of protests and confrontations between the public and site surveyors from the theme park started popping up on Not In Napa’s Facebook page, and publications like San Francisco Chronicle and Food & Wine began reporting on the unfolding clash.

"We truly appreciate the passion we saw from Napa residents in sharing their honest reactions to an admittedly preposterous theme park proposal,“ Belongie wrote.

the surveyors from Voodoo showed up today and we were there to meet them. #notinnapa

Posted by NotinNapa on Friday, July 15, 2022

According to Belongie, the entire stunt was conceived of by New Belgium and DCX Growth Accelerator, an advertising company that specializes in experiential marketing.

“Our outstanding and incredibly creative partners at DCX certainly were on the ground spreading the Theme Park proposal throughout the community – on the street, online, via advertisements, etc. And we did a little bit of seeding to get the live discussion going. But truly residents and reporters took it from there,” Belongie wrote.

Yet, the company says it never meant to offend.

“While Napa remains a global icon of taste and class, we found the local community extremely warm, welcoming, and thoughtful. It’s our hope that everyone, whether you were for or against the park, can have a laugh at this point,” Belongie wrote.

In an email to The Press Democrat, Napa County Planning Commission Director David Morrison wrote, “As this was never a serious proposal, the County does not have any comment.”

After revealing the park was an advertising campaign, New Belgium has gone from calling Napa “Whine Country” to announcing that Voodoo Ranger will be making a significant donation to the Napa Valley Community Foundation, according to Belongie.

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