As if there weren’t enough opportunities to drink, American cities host countless beer, wine and other alcohol-centric festivals. For those who imbibe, these festivals offer a fun way to try many different drinks in one setting. But if you happen to be at an event like this and you’re not drinking, you’re probably pregnant or someone’s designated driver — and you’re not having much fun. But the New York Times recently reported that plenty of major drinking-focused events are actually making a push to include non-drinkers in their festivities.

The Great American Beer Festival, one of America’s best known beer festivals, kicks off today at the Colorado Convention center in Denver and will feature over 800 breweries with 3,900 types of beer. Organizers estimate that only 300 guests out of the 60,000 expected attendees won’t be drinking.

“We have games set up, and I’ve seen card games break out. People tell jokes. I’ve seen people knit and chat. Last year they loved the adult coloring books,” Jada Petersen, a volunteer who has worked for eight year in the festival’s DD lounge, told the NYT. “Non-drinkers are also offered complimentary food and beverages unique to their lounge—things like Bavarian pretzels and craft sodas.”

The Great American Beer Festival has hosted a designated drivers lounge since 2001, and now other festivals are following suit. Festivals want to make the areas for sober audiences as inclusive and engaging as possible.

The Oregon Brewers Festival attracts nearly 70,000 people to downtown Portland. Of those, only about 1,000 won’t participate in drinking, but for those folks, the event organizers have created a 20-feet-by-20-feet “soda garden” with comfortable chairs, tables and shade. All-natural craft sodas with interesting flavors will be served from local vendors.

This year the San Diego Bay Food and Wine Festival will include an open-air mocktail bar located right in the middle of the action and will feature two new “safe sangrias.” The idea here is to not make non-drinkers feel like they are excluded from the main event.

While most non-drinkers still prefer to stay away from alcohol-centric events, festival committees are hoping the newly available options will attract a larger sober audience. After all, they know a better balance between sober and drunk people means a safer event for all.

(h/t Food & Wine)


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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.