Photo courtesy of Andi Rice.
SliceFest, a music and food festival in Lakeview, will feature live performances by local and regional bands.
Slice Pizza and Brewhouse co-owners and brothers Jeff, Chris and Jason Bajalieh held the first SliceFest in 2011 as a way to thank the community. It was intended to be a simple parking lot party, but about 2,000 people showed up to celebrate the restaurant’s first year.
“It was a lot more than a parking lot party,” said Denise Koch, the event planner for SliceFest.
Now in its fifth year, SliceFest has more than doubled in attendance and has grown too large for the restaurant’s parking lot. In 2015, the festival expanded to take over 29th Street in Lakeview.
“It really made it more of a neighborhood festival than just Slice,” Koch said.
At this year’s June 11 event, the road will once again be fenced off, and other Lakeview restaurants will join in on the festivities. Local and regional bands will perform at the festival, and restaurants often have specials for SliceFest attendees.
At Slice Pizza and Brewhouse, SliceFest brings a chance to offer up a few nontraditional pizza options, such as figs or pork and peaches as toppings.
“You get to be a little adventurous for the day,” Jeff Bajalieh said.
Slice chef Terrill Brazelton said choosing pizza options breaks down into three parts: One third is what people are expecting, one third is something new and off the wall, and one third is based off what is fresh and local. This year, one of the featured pizzas will be bacon, avocado and shrimp with a pesto base.
“This is not a time to copy someone else,” Brazelton said.
As much as SliceFest aims to build community spirit, Jeff Bajalieh said it is also a chance for the restaurant to give back. In the past four years, SliceFest has raised and donated more than $30,000 for Birmingham nonprofits.
One of the main nonprofit beneficiaries is Suki Foundation, started in 2011 by the Bajalieh’s cousins Briana and Marie Bateh.
In 2012, SliceFest started benefiting the Suki Foundation, which promotes research for and awareness of Rett Syndrome, a genetic neurological disorder that affects one in 10,000 girls.
“They always have been and always will be a really big part of it,” Koch said.
During SliceFest, members of “Team Suki” help set up the event and hang out during the day to provide information about Rett Syndrome.
“We just definitely want to thank Slice, because it really is a great opportunity for us to get our name out there and have the community just hear the words ‘Rett Syndrome,’” Marie Bateh said.
Jeff Bajaleich said supporting efforts in Birmingham, from community members to nonprofits to other restaurants, is one of the biggest goals of SliceFest. “At the end of the day, it’s about supporting local,” he said.
Tickets to the event are $25 in advance and $35 at the gate. Children 12 and younger are free. Tickets cover entry to the festival, and food and beer will be available separately.
Deeper look: Suki Foundation
Brian and Marie Bateh established the Suki Foundation in 2011 after their fourth daughter, Sarah Katherine, also known as Suki, was diagnosed with Rett syndrome. About one in 10,000 girls are affected by Rett syndrome, and many people do not know about the disease, Marie Bateh said.
“It’s a neurological disorder that has a genetic link,” Marie Bateh said. “So we know exactly what causes the syndrome, and it’s a protein that affects every single system in our body.” The disorder only affects girls, and it affects everything from breathing to eating to communicating.
For a long time, people believed the girls affected by Rett’s were not cognitively aware because of their inability to communicate, Marie Bateh said. Through assistive technology, however, that has proven to be an incorrect assumption. Suki, for example, is able to communicate through a keyboard and is able to do math, read and understand concepts most 6-year-olds can understand.
“The girls are just locked in a body that doesn’t work for them,” Marie Bateh said.
Suki Foundation aims to bring awareness about Rett syndrome as well as bring education to families with daughters who are affected.
“Throughout the year, we continuously do education for the medical professionals and then we do continuing education for the family,” Marie Bateh said. “We bring in Rett specialists and speech therapists.”
Money raised through the Suki Foundation goes toward funding educational efforts as well as funding research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Long-term, the Suki Foundation hopes to raise enough money to establish Rett-specific research at UAB and help build a clinic dedicated to Rett syndrome at Children’s of Alabama. If they can raise $500,000, UAB will match that amount to go toward funding research. Once that is raised and established, an additional $500,000 would be matched to establish a clinic at Children’s, Marie Bateh said.
For more information about the Suki Foundation, visit sukifoundation.org.
5th annual SliceFest
WHEN: June 11, noon to midnight
WHERE: Lakeview district (29th Street South)
TICKETS: Advance tickets: $25; At the gate: $35
- The Revivalists
- The Soul Rebels
- Keller Williams
- The Weeks
- Break Science
- Muddy Magnolias
- Riley Green
- Baily Ingle