The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
FREDERICKSBURG OKTOBERFEST STAYING PUT
CITY MANAGER APPROVES DOWNTOWN EVENT, WITH TWEAKS
BY ROBYN SIDERSKY
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Fredericksburg City Manager Beverly Cameron has granted permission for Capital Ale House to hold its popular—and controversial—Oktoberfest in the same downtown location this year.
Cameron sent a letter Friday to Capital Ale House president Matt Simmons telling him that his special event application was approved to hold Oktoberfest on Sept. 29 in the 800 and 900 blocks of Caroline Street and the 100 and 200 blocks of George Street.
The city manager wrote that the application was revised to allow pedestrian travel across George Street at both the east and west intersections with Caroline.
“This greatly improves pedestrian flow and accessibility along Caroline Street, and my approval is conditioned on this modification,” Cameron wrote.
He also requested that the restaurant’s staff and contractors serving the festival park outside the downtown area so that the spaces are available for visitors and shoppers.
Parking and the barriers that line the sidewalks of Caroline were the biggest complaints of those opposed to the festival’s location.
The requests were no surprise to Simmons, who said he had discussed them with city officials previously.
Earlier this month, Cameron sent a survey about Oktoberfest to 185 downtown business owners. He received about 80 responses, with half of those saying the event should continue at the same location.
The survey came after some merchants complained about the street festival, which 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 Fredericksburg Economic Development Authority encouraged Cameron to keep Oktoberfest on Caroline Street.
Cameron said the survey allowed him to explore the situation in more detail. It included yes-or-no and open-ended questions, as well as questions that asked participants to rank their level of agreement.
In his letter, Cameron urged Simmons “to be mindful of the inconvenience this event creates for many of your neighbors.”
“The long-term viability of Oktoberfest may rest with finding a solution which lessens the impact of the event on your neighbors,” he wrote.
Simmons said that Capital Ale House has always been considerate of its neighbors and pointed out that his employees have “always done a great job cleaning up after the festival.”
He said restaurant officials have been working with Fredericksburg Parent and Family magazine to “do something a little more kid-friendly” from 11 a.m to 3 p.m.
“We’re working with them to come up with something that’s going to bring families and children to some of the merchants,” Simmons said.
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 has not yet gotten off the ground, but $30,000 is allocated in the upcoming city budget.
Simmons said he proposed the idea, but after discussing it with Main Street organizers, the admission-fee idea has been dropped for now.
Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413