Oktoberfest not complete washout


Two days of wet, cold, windy weather dampened the Seymour Oktoberfest, but it wasn’t a washout, organizers said.

Kay Schwade, Oktoberfest chairwoman, said the final figures for how much the festival made during its run last Thursday through Saturday were not yet available.

She said she doesn’t expect the dip in attendance or sales to matter much in the long run and said the festival will go on come rain, snow, sleet or hail.

“We haven’t finalized our income and expenses yet. However, based on our carnival ticket presales and feedback from the carnival company and other vendors, the weather was not detrimental to anyone’s business,” she said.

The Oktoberfest committee will evaluate where it stands financially to determine how much it will save for next year’s festival and how much it will give back in community grants and to help repay the city for services provided by the public works, parks and recreation, police and fire departments.

Even with the rain, Schwade said, crowds were heavy Saturday.

“Friday night suffered the most due to weather, but it really only affected the last hour to hour-and-a-half of the night,” she said.

Because of the rain, the festival committee allowed vendors to close at 10 instead of 11 p.m.

The less than ideal weather didn’t dampen everyone’s business.

Sandi Cockerham, owner of Java Joint, a downtown coffee shop, said she saw sales double during the festival, even though the street in front of her business at 120 N. Chestnut St. was closed for four days.

Several downtown business owners have complained over the years that the festival causes them to lose money. Some even close early or don’t open at all during Oktoberfest.

Cockerham said she sees the festival as an opportunity to attract new customers and promote Seymour.

“It’s a great time to celebrate with customers and to meet new ones,” she said.

Celebrating Java Joint’s one-year anniversary, Cockerham said, she decided to extend her normal business hours to coincide with the festival.

“We were open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. all weekend and had a line out the door all weekend,” she said.

She said the addition this year of a festival map showing where booths and businesses were located and “shout-out” advertising from announcers in the information booth throughout the festival helped.

“We always support anything downtown, so we are grateful the Seymour Oktoberfest and residents of Seymour support us,” she said.

By handing out 20 percent off coupons to customers and allowing people to use the restroom if they purchased a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, Cockerham said, she was able to increase traffic even more.

Kevin Greene, owner of Artistic Impressions framing and art shop at 127 W. Second St., said he hasn’t had as much luck during the Oktoberfest recently. He’s had a booth at the festival for nearly 20 years but said this year may have been his last.

Overall, he estimated he was down about 15 percent from his normal sales.

“Thursday’s sales were up, Friday was down a bit,” he said. “At about 3 p.m. Saturday, things looked really bad; but for about three hours, I sold pretty strong, which saved the weekend.”

Greene said it’s not just the weather that has hurt his sales during Oktoberfest.

“When the economy got bad about six years ago, total sales at the fest dropped almost in half, and they really never rebounded much since,” he said.

Greene decided to close his storefront during Oktoberfest and just operate his booth after the first year he tried to do both.

“The first year, I paid someone to have the store open while I was out at my booth. I did not have one sale inside the store and had less than 10 people come into the store each day, so I gave up on the store being opened and just did the booth,” he said.

Next year, he said, he plans to keep his store open and not have a booth.

“I’m hoping with my new improved entrance, people might wander in,” he said.

Another issue Greene and other downtown business owners have with the Oktoberfest is the mess left behind by festivalgoers. He said he often has to pick up trash and clean up food and vomit from around his front door after the festival.

“The sidewalks are pretty greasy, and that gets tracked into the stores for a while,” he said. “That seems to have gotten worse over time. They used to hose down the streets and sidewalks, but they no longer do that. It would be nice if they could use some kind of cleaner to help with this.”

Greene said the Oktoberfest is a longstanding tradition in Seymour and has been downtown longer than he has been in business.

“I think that more communication between the Oktoberfest committee and business owners would be a huge help,” he said. “Also, it would be nice if the downtown businesses could have the opportunity to have the booth space in front of their business.”

He also said the festival makes it nearly impossible to receive deliveries.

“We need a place for delivery trucks to be able to park to walk our deliveries in to us,” he said. “I get a Friday delivery every year, and my delivery driver has been yelled at for trying to park and get my stuff to me.”

Julia Aker, director of the Jackson County Public Library, said that because of the festival the Seymour Library closes early Thursday and remains closed through Saturday due to lack of parking for customers.

Now, the Friends of the Library group takes donations for parking in the lot. That money goes to support the library.

“We started closing because of the complaints from customers who couldn’t find a parking space,” she said. “Now, we get complaints from people who want to use the library and can’t.”

Cockerham said businesses and vendors need to be creative in finding ways to attract customers.

“I think it is all how you go into the Oktoberfest with your attitude,” she said. “If you go in with a negative attitude about no parking and it’s hard for people to see you or come in, then you are not trying to promote yourself enough.”

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