Popular festival getting rewired

If you’ve been in downtown Seymour in the past week and noticed some big holes on the sides of the roads, parking spaces blocked off and heavy equipment and wiring, you’re not alone.

But there’s a good reason for the inconvenience, say those responsible.

Seymour Oktoberfest Inc., a local nonprofit organization, is upgrading electrical infrastructure that is installed beneath city streets.

An upgrade allows for increased electrical capacity to the more than 70 food and activity booths at the annual three-day festival on the first weekend in October.

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“The wiring provides electricity for our vendors, so it’s absolutely essential for the operation of the festival,” said Oktoberfest President Ben Stahl. “Basically, this project involves upgrading the available power in certain areas so that the electricity is equal across the festival grounds.”

City building commissioner Jeremy Gray, who is on the Oktoberfest board, said the project will take about a month to complete and should wrap up by the end of May.

Although the number of vendors at the festival likely will not increase, the improvements will make booths safer and function better and may allow for different kinds of food vendors, Stahl said.

“It creates some exciting possibilities for the future,” Stahl said.

The work is being completed by LCB Electric and Dave O’Mara Contractor Inc. in North Vernon and is costing Oktoberfest more than $50,000. That money is coming from set-up fees Oktoberfest collects from vendors and reinvests back into the festival and the community.

Over the past five years, Seymour Oktoberfest has spent more than $90,000 to maintain and upgrade the electrical infrastructure.

“It’s a big financial commitment for our organization, but the successful operation of our festival is vital to accomplishing our mission,” Stahl said. “Our board of directors recognized that fact and decided to move forward with the project.”

Stahl said everyone involved with the festival would rather have spent the money on something else, but improving the electrical capability was in the best interest of Oktoberfest’s future.

“While our organization certainly would have liked to invest this money in something more visible to the community, we want the Seymour Oktoberfest to be here for many years to come,” he said.

Oktoberfest officials estimate that last year’s festival brought in more than $700,000. Of that amount, around $200,000 was generated by local nonprofit organizations through their booths.

Stahl said a committee is working to draft a policy that will allow other community events and festivals to access the downtown electrical infrastructure more easily through the use of custom-built electric boxes.

“This type of policy will take time to create, as we have to consider several factors such as insurance and maintenance costs,” he said. “I hope to have something in place for 2018.”