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City To Consider Major Changes To Olde Towne, Oktoberfest Festivals

Arts & Events Division Chief Denise Kayser recommended scrapping Kentlands Oktoberfest for a summer arts festival and changing Olde Towne Street Festival to a fall festival.

Two of Gaithersburg's annual, staple events may undergo drastic changes, according to a presentation made by city Arts & Events Division Chief Denise Kayser to the Gaithersburg mayor and City Council Tuesday night.

Kayser said the city should consider scrapping the Kentlands Oktoberfest in favor of a summer arts festival in the neighborhood and change the Celebrate Gaithersburg in Olde Towne festival to a fall-themed festival in October.

Oktoberfest has outgrown its venue and outpaced the city's partner's resources, according to the presentation.

"The two most common comments we've received from Oktoberfest attendees is that it's too crowded and there's not that much to do," Kayser said, while later adding that "an arts festival would expand exposure to the [Kentlands] business district and support the arts and entertainment district."

The arts festival would focus on food from local restaurants and vendors, crafts, live art shows and kid/family friendly activities, Kayser said.

Changes to the Celebrate Gaithersburg in Olde Towne festival aim to make it more theme-driven, highlighting traditional fall activities and crafts, Kayser said. Shifting the festival to a Saturday in October would move it away from the Jewish holidays and avoid Sunday football conflicts, she said.

The fall festival will focus on harvest foods (including candied apples, apple pressing, cider, roasted nuts, honey, funnel cakes, preserves, kettle corn), pumpkins (patches, carvings, sculptures), kids activities, a beer garden and possibly a car show, according to the presentation.

Mayor Sidney A. Katz and the City Council were open to the ideas for change, but were not in a rush.

"I think there's many good ideas here...I think that we need to involve the communities, the neighborhoods that are directly involved in this and get them involved [in conversations] as quickly as possible," Katz said.

The mayor's biggest concerns were moving a Kentlands festival so close to Kentlands Day and shifting the fall festival to Saturdays, he said.

Many businesses in Olde Towne are open on Saturdays and need their parking lots, Katz said. "You're asking them to give up a day of business, I think that's a very large concern."

Council Vice President Michael A. Sesma said Kayser's concerns with Oktoberfest were "right on target" but remained skeptical about changes to the timing of the city's events.

"I'm worried a little bit about some of the calendar issues," Sesma said. "If you include Kentlands day in here, Kentlands Day, Gaithersburg Book Festival, possibly our June festival and Memorial Day [fall within a two month period], it doesnt matter which part of the calendar we look at, we're going to be faced with some issues."

Kayser said she hopes the proposed changes could be put in place as soon as this year, but understands the timing needs to be right. Councilmember Cathy Drzyzgula said anytime within the next five years would be appropriate.

Check out Kayser's full presentation on the city of Gaithersburg website for more info on changes to Oktoberfest, Celebrate Gaithersburg in Olde Towne, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Gaithersburg Book Festival celebrations.

SPEAK OUT: Would you like to see Gaithersburg make significant changes to city events such as the Kentlands Oktoberfest and Celebrate Gaithersburg in Olde Towne Festival? What do you think of the proposed changes? Tell us in the comments!

jnrentz1 January 23, 2013 at 09:29 PM
What would help the proposal for the festivals would be for Montgomery County to recognize and celebrate Columbus Day as a holiday.
Susan January 23, 2013 at 10:45 PM
I beg to differ about the Oktoberfest...there is sooo many venders and things to do that I would need an extra hour or so just to see every booth..I think that the fest should start @11: 00 and end @5;00..I love the fest as it is @ its regular date and look forward to it as a wonderful fall activity..there is plenty to do in the summer and besides people are away for summer vacations.. Thank you for your attention and consideration..:) Do not change
jnrentz1 January 24, 2013 at 10:11 AM
And I do think Oktoberfest should be preserved.
Elly January 24, 2013 at 12:09 PM
The Kentlands Oktoberfest is the best local festival that I know of. I recommend it to all of my friends. The comment that there isn't enough to do is really surprising because, compared to anything else I've been to, there is plenty to do, both for adults and kids - scarecrow making, other crafts, horsedrawn carriage, etc. It does get crowded but that's a sign of its success. The entertainment is outstanding. Perhaps extending the hours would help. Perhaps being more selective with the vendors would help and open up some space (some are boring and repetitive, some of the craft vendors are mediocre).
Holly January 24, 2013 at 04:24 PM
Forget Columbus Day - any real historian knows he just lost his way and didn't really discover America. Oktoberfest, on the other hand, needs to be a longer day or perhaps 2-day event. Forget the art festival - I take painting classes on a regular basis and you wouldn't find me there. There needs to be more adult-friendly events out here in the suburbs so people aren't running into D.C. for fun.
jnrentz1 January 24, 2013 at 06:04 PM
No Holly, lets not "forget Columbus Day." It is a mid fall holiday weekend and allows familys to celebrate together. It does not matter what "real historians know, it is a chance for many to have some excellent, quality time together. Montgomery County needs to observe the Columbus Day weekend holiday, and it presents an excellent time for the Oktoberfest.
Brenda January 27, 2013 at 09:30 PM
A fall festival in place of Celebrate Gaithersburg would be nice, but there's no mention of live entertainment or food vendors other than those that sell fall snacks. I like that you want to move it away from the Jewish holidays, but keep in mind that Yom Kippur can sometimes fall in early to mid-October. I say leave Celebrate Gaithersburg as it is, but schedule it after the Jewish holidays.
JoAnn Schimke January 28, 2013 at 03:01 AM
I believe Olde Towne Day or Celebrate Gaithersburg had a successful run in earlier years but now needs to be retired. Festivals seem to do better when there is a "theme" and that is why the Oktoberfest Festival and the Book Festival events seem to do so well. Would like to see Oktoberfest in Kentlands remain, keep the Book Festival in Olde Towne, and Winter Lights at Seneca Creek State Park. Three festivals is enough for one city and there are many more festivals you can attend in Montgomery County throughout the year.

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