Could Gaithersburg's Oktoberfest and Olde Towne festivals be coming to an end?
At Monday evening's mayor and City Council work session, city Arts & Events Division Chief Denise Kayser proposed the city replace its extensive support of the Kentlands Oktoberfest with a summer arts, music and wine festival.
Kayser also recommended a proposal to shift the traditional Celebrate Gaithersburg in Olde Towne festival to a "fall-themed" festival, encompassing the best parts of previous Olde Towne and Oktoberfest events.
Much of Kayser's proposal mirrored changes she outlined in a January presentation to the mayor and City Council.
But Kayser's proposal doesn't completely do away with the city's annual Oktoberfest.
"The idea is not necessarily to cancel Oktoberfest, but to hand over the reins to the community to handle it more with some support from the city, but not have it be a city-run event," Councilmember Ryan Spiegel said.
A transitional year, likely the 2013 incarnation of the event, would help give volunteers the tools needed to plan the event in the future, Kayser said.
Although the event planner said she'd received a great deal of support for replacing Oktoberfest with the arts, music and wine festival, city officials and community members don't want to see Oktoberfest be diminished.
"I think if we're going to do festivals, we should do them properly," Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney A. Katz said. "We should want as many people to come as possible, and we should use city resources to help insure that ... If we're not going to dedicate the city resources necessary for these events, we're asking ourselves for failure. And no one wants that."
In regards to complaints that Oktoberfest has become overcrowded, Councilmember Cathy Drzyzgula asked, "How do you tell people not to come?"
Neil Harris, of 349 Main St. in the Kentlands, said he supports the idea of not only continuing Oktoberfest, but expanding it, too.
Another Kentlands community member said she always brags to friends about the Oktoberfest festival and tries to convince them to come.
"I've heard it said we need to try something new, but we've established a great tradition," she said. "I go every year. I love it. It's a fabulous, high-quality event, and that's why it's crowded."
Community members speculated as many as 12,000 people attended the 2012 Oktoberfest festival.
Most community members with complaints about the event mentioned overcrowding. One community member said she felt Oktoberfest had lost its charm. "It feels commercialized and crowded," she said.
Other options the city plans to consider are adding the elements of an art, music and wine festival with Oktoberfest, creating appeal for both families with young children and adults.
The city also plans to consider eliminating the Olde Towne festival altogether and moving to a summer-themed event.
In order to do this, Kayser said there would be at least one calendar year without one of the festivals in order to plan moving forward.
"I think we should consider not having [Celebrate Gaithersburg in Olde Towne] this September," Drzyzgula said.
The potential for that to happen in 2013 is possible, as Kayser said the city has not yet signed contracts with any vendors or entertainment for fall festivals. All vendors are holding dates on verbal agreements, she said.
SPEAK OUT: What do you think of the new ideas proposed for Oktoberfest and Celebrate Gaithersburg in Olde Towne? Should the city consider changes reducing or expanding either festival or leave them alone? Is it time to consider canceling one of the events? Tell us in the comments!
- On The Agenda: Proposed Changes To City Events (March 11, 2013)
- (Jan. 23, 2013)