The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Mixed results on Oktoberfest
RELATED: See the complete survey results
BY ROBYN SIDERSKY
Capital Ale House’s popular—and controversial—Oktoberfest should stay right where it is, say half of the downtown Fredericksburg business owners who responded to a recent city survey.
Thirty-eight business owners said they favor keeping the festival in the 800 and 900 blocks of Caroline Street, according to the survey done by City Manager Beverly Cameron last week. Thirty-two oppose keeping the festival there, and eight said they didn’t care either way.
Cameron sent his questionnaire to 185 downtown business owners and got about 80 responses, though not everyone answered every question.
His survey came after some merchants complained about the street festival that drew about 9,000 people to downtown Fredericksburg last September.
In April, 90 downtown business owners signed a petition opposing the event and its location and presented it to the City Council. At the same time, the Economic Development Authority encouraged Cameron to keep Oktoberfest on Caroline Street.
Cameron said he wanted to explore the situation in more detail. His survey included yes-or-no and open-ended questions, as well as questions that asked participants to rank their level of agreement.
The biggest complaints from survey respondents were about parking and the barricades for Alcoholic Beverage Control regulations.
One of Cameron’s questions proposed modifying the barricade system so that shoppers and other visitors outside the festival could cross Caroline Street at the George Street intersection. Last year that was not an option, and some shopkeepers complained that it limited access to their stores.
In the survey, almost three-quarters of the respondents said that change would make the event “much better” or “somewhat better.”
FESTIVAL HAS FANS
Oktoberfest ranked as the third most-attended downtown event among the 1,100 respondents to another recent survey.
Only the Christmas parade and monthly First Friday events were more popular among area residents, according to the study conducted by seven members of the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce’s most recent Leadership Fredericksburg program.
About 51 percent of the respondents who answered the question about downtown events said they attended Oktoberfest.
Cameron’s survey also floated the idea of collecting an admission fee and donating the money to the city’s proposed Main Street program, which would aim to create and promote a thriving central business district.
The program, which would fall under the auspices of the Virginia Main Street Program, has not gotten off the ground yet, but $30,000 is allocated in the upcoming city budget.
Local Main Street program organizers weren’t happy with the city manager’s proposal in the survey because they weren’t consulted first.
However, about 60 percent of the survey’s respondents supported the idea.
DECISION COMING SOON
Cameron said the varied, open-ended answers were the most helpful to him.
Some business owners suggested the event be held on another day or at night. Some said it didn’t impact their business at all. Others said the event had a positive impact on their business.
After reviewing the results of the survey, Cameron said he anticipates making a decision about the future of the event “very soon.”
“I think it certainly confirms that it’s an issue that’s very divisive to the downtown community,” he said. “In a sense some folks are supportive and others are very much opposed to it.”
Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413