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Germantown Oktoberfest 'Outgrew' Park, Moves to Clarksburg

“We outgrew the park and couldn’t find any place in Germantown that would work,” event chairwoman Susan Austin tells Patch.

, the 30th annual Germantown Oktboberfest isn’t going to be held in Germantown this year.

Germantown Oktoberfest is set for Oct. 6 at High Point Farm in Clarksburg, miles from its former perch at Ridge Road Park in Germantown. Organizers estimate the free festival has fetched between 7,000 and 10,000 attendees.

“We outgrew the park and couldn’t find any place in Germantown that would work,” said Susan Austin, an event chairwoman.

Space, cost and logistics were driving factors for the decision to relocate. Austin said Montgomery College and the Maryland SoccerPlex were among the options the committee considered, but plans didn’t pan out at either venue.

Austin said the event costs between $25,000 and $30,000 to produce; moving the event to Clarksburg would save $10,000.

The committee did not receive a grant from the county as it had in prior years.  Also, the cost to rent the public park increased to $5,000 this year, Austin said. 

“Then you have other fees on top of that,” Austin said. “Trash removal, police, crossing guards — those things add up.”

Austin said parking-related expenses alone could account for $5,000.

The relocation has prompted at least one vendor to pull out of the festival —The Germantown Historical Society.

Organization President Susan Soderberg, who writes a monthly column for Germantown Patch, made the announcement in a letter to the editor published in The Gazette:

The Germantown Oktoberfest was created by the Germantown Alliance 30 years ago in order to foster community identity and local camaraderie. Moving it out of Germantown defeats the purpose of the festival.

When reached by Patch on Wednesday afternoon, Austin said she was unaware that the Germantown Historical Society’s plans to pull out of the festival.

Austin said the committee had considered that some people would be disappointed that Germantown Oktoberfest wasn’t going to be held in Germantown this year. She also noted that the festival committee found advertisements at least 10 years old, billing the festival as the “Upper Montgomery Oktoberfest.”

While the overall character of the event is expected to stay the same, there are some other changes to the festival — the addition of a free wine tasting and a cancelled fireworks display, which Austin attributed to budget cuts.

There are also a new set of hours: 10 a.m to 5 p.m., instead of 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“If we end at 5, we don’t have to run as many lights,” Austin said.

Nikki Rouse September 13, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Austin and the other organizers have made an enormous mistake. There is so much more to the GERMANTOWN Octoberfest than dollars. There are better ways to save than to alienate an entire town. How can they be so blind?? As a 31 year resident of Germantown, I will not be attending. This is an insult to the Germantown residents that worked so hard to bring a unique event to our town, to recognize and celebrate the German heritage that set us apart.
Patty Williams September 15, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Join the committee, please. We have been trying to put on this event for the past few years with around 10 volunteers. Most of us have full time jobs and families to raise but are willing to give up one hour a month to try to bring an event to the area. We reached out to all of the locations left in Germantown that would be large enough to bring this event and we were turned down. Anyone who says that cost should not be the driving factor needs to realize that this event has been free to the public for 30 years now but it is not free to rent the space, bring in children's games, bring in the German entertainment and all of the other entertainment. If you can find us a free venue, free entertainment, free children's games, etc., then please join the committee and bring your knowledge and ideas.
francesca@allianceofsmallbusinesses.com September 16, 2012 at 11:06 AM
Patty, that is a wonderful suggestion and it is folks like you who hold up the community. Once others see the amount of planning and coordination that goes into a large event, they will be more empathetic. I am sure you can collect some money from the public in the future to pay for some of the costs. I paid $7 yesterday to walk into the Great Frederick Fair -- a bargain for an afternoon's worth of entertainment. I've tried for a few years to get Germantown to host an Inbound group of Austrian or German teens for two weeks during the school year, and can never get any of the schools to return my calls or emails. So not sure how intent they are in celebrating their "German" tradition. I hope to be able to attend your event. Oktoberfest celebrations and German style Christmases are always fun! Thank you for all of the work that you and other volunteers do. I certainly appreciate it.
Nikki Rouse September 17, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Patty, I am surprised the SoccerPlex turned down the opportunity to host the Oktoberfest. Did they give a reason? They invaded Germantown; they should give a little more back! I will seriously consider volunteering for a committee next year. I wish I'd been able to this year but had already committed to other obligations. I am thankful for the committees that work so hard to bring activities to Germantown. I really believe the Oktoberfest means enough to Germantown that attendees would have been happy to pay a nominal admission fee. It is admirable to try to keep it free, but that isn't always feasible, especially in this economy. Still, I don't believe a fee would have kept many people away.

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