Tom Calley has made holiday festival the toast of Evansville's summer
Family: Wife, Mary; children, Pierson, 20, Carlton, 19, and Mariah, 17.
Occupation: Insurance agent
EVANSVILLE When Tom Calley took control of Evansville's Fourth of July festival, he had one mission: improve the beer selection.
"If I'm going to be in charge of it, we're going to have good beer," Calley said. "I'm not going to be in charge of it if we're serving Miller Light and Bud Light."
The self-proclaimed beer snob got Berghoff, New Glarus and Capitol brewery beers served at the festival. He said a lot of people appreciated the move toward craft brews.
Since then, Calley has become responsible for much more than the festival's alcoholic beverages. He chairs the committee that plans the event and has had a key role in its growth and popularity.
"We just continue to try and build the event and make it bigger, better and family friendly," he said.
Calley grew up in central Wisconsin and graduated from UW-River Falls with a bachelor's degree in agricultural business. After college, he worked on his dad's dairy farm while his dad recovered from heart surgery.
Calley likes to play soccer and basketball. He used to home brew and wants do that again. He also loves working on muscle cars when he has time.
Calley moved to Evansville 18 years ago. He later got involved in the Evansville Community Partnership, which coordinates the festival. He has chaired the festival's committee for six years.
The four-day event includes live music, fireworks and a parade. Other activities include a car show, tractor pull and a softball tournament. Thousands of people from the region attend.
The festival relies on volunteers, sponsors and vendors. Calley coordinates meetings and begins planning about a year in advance. He spends most of his time at the event to troubleshoot.
Yet he is quick to point toward the festival's committee members, volunteers and others who make it possible.
"I don't want to take credit," Calley said. "We've got a great group of people."
Greg Ardisson, owner of The Night Owl Food and Spirits, said Calley and his wife, Mary, are important to Evansville. He said Calley is his "glass half full guy."
"I really enjoy being around him. He's just one of those guys who has a really positive outlook and a magnetic personality," Ardisson said.
Calley also volunteers in other ways.
He helps with the Harvest Windmill Festival, the Energy Fair and chili cook off. He volunteers his expertise to help other groups organize events.
He works with the Council of Evansville Economic Development to promote local businesses. He helps the South Central Wisconsin Builders Association with promoting building to students.
Calley is a trustee at United Methodist Church. He is a board member and current vice president of Family Respite Care Services in Janesville. He also organizes a soccer club.
Calley said he began volunteering his time to get involved with the community. He said it was a great way to meet people.
Once he started helping others, he realized he could make a difference. And he couldn't turn people down when they asked him for help.
"It is kind of an infectious thing," Calley said. "There are a lot of committed people. You've got to keep up."
He wants to continue improving the July 4th festival every year. He wants to find more sources for revenue to rely less on beer sales.
He also wants to organize more events to promote Evansville.
"We've got some wild ideas," he said.