Seymour Oktoberfest canceled for 2020

No bratwurst, Biergarten or bands.

Pulling up the Seymour Oktoberfest website early Friday morning, the message was clear: The 48th annual Seymour Oktoberfest is canceled.

Seymour’s biggest event and Jackson County’s second largest event was scheduled for Oct. 1 through 3 in the downtown.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

According to a letter from the board of directors posted on the website and the festival’s Facebook page, the announcement was made with a heavy heart.

“While Indiana’s Back on Track plan allows for fairs and festivals to be held on or after July 4, there is still uncertainty regarding potential restrictions through the remainder of this year,” the board said. “As with other fairs and festivals in Indiana, we have had to address this uncertainty while keeping the health and safety of the public a top priority.”

Some of the board’s major concerns included uncertainty surrounding Indiana’s Back on Track plan timeline; challenges regarding restrictions and best practices for social distancing; personal protective equipment use, contact tracing, etc.; logistical concerns for increased sanitation efforts; and disruption in the food supply chain.

“We do not take this decision lightly,” the board said. “This decision will impact our community and the local businesses and organizations that participate in the Seymour Oktoberfest. Our beloved festival would not be the same without their support and the public’s patronage, and this fact made our decision even more difficult.”

The Seymour Oktoberfest is a celebration of the city’s German heritage.

During the three-day event, the downtown streets are packed with people checking out the numerous food booths, craft vendors and free stage entertainment. They also can participate in a talent contest, a baby contest, a baking contest, a brat eating contest and a stein hoist.

Plus, the 5K on Saturday morning is the largest in the county with 500-plus participants, people line Second and Walnut streets in the afternoon for the parade that typically lasts nearly two hours and families fill the B and O Parking Lot for the carnival.

Kendra Zumhingst, chairwoman of the Oktoberfest board of directors, organizes the 5K each year. She said 5K, event, entertainment and parade sponsors weren’t coming in like they had in the past.

“That was a huge factor in considering it,” she said of canceling the festival. “It was a big deal. It wasn’t taken lightly. There were a ton of factors involved. Obviously, safety was a huge concern for us. The supply chain disruptions was another one. We had a huge issue (last year) with Rumpke not being able to handle the volume of (sanitation needs with handwashing stations and sanitizer).”

She said the board was eight months into planning this year’s festival when the decision was made.

“The (festival) ends and we immediately start planning for the next year,” she said.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, though, she said there are just so many unknowns.

“I would like people to think about ‘What would it look like for vendors to have to buy all of this stuff and then have to sit on it and then not be able to sell it?’” Zumhingst said. “There are so many factors beyond just, ‘Oh, we’re canceling because of the virus.’”

The festival, which is organized by the nonprofit organization Seymour Oktoberfest Inc., could have been out tens of thousands of dollars if it would have signed contracts with vendors and then later canceled the event and still have to pay them, Zumhingst said.

“That’s not being a good steward of money,” she said.

Through the remainder of this year, the board said it will stay in communication with health officials, vendors, partners and industry peers to prepare for a return in 2021.

“As Indiana and other states continue the process of reopening, we are hopeful that we can all work together to learn, adapt and overcome,” the board said.

Zumhingst said they will use the extra time to find out what steps will need to be taken to be prepared if the virus is still around next year.

“We’re going to be back with a bang and hopefully be able to plan some amazing things as a welcome back event,” she said.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”On the Web” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

For information about the Seymour Oktoberfest, visit seymouroktoberfest.com or facebook.com/seymouroktoberfest.

[sc:pullout-text-end]