The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Many merchants seem pleased with Oktoberfest
BY ROBYN SIDERSKY
John Mitchell said he made $60 last year at his store during Capital Ale House’s Oktoberfest in downtown Fredericksburg.
This year, he called the event a “home run” for the city.
Mitchell owns the Made in Virginia store on Caroline Street, where the festival was held Saturday for the fourth year. It drew about 10,000 people—1,000 more than last year.
Mitchell and several other downtown business owners signed petitions and told the City Council earlier this year that the festival hurt their businesses and that it should be moved to Riverfront Park on Sophia Street, a block away.
Instead of requesting that the festival be moved, City Manager Beverly Cameron asked Capital Ale House to allow pedestrian travel across George Street at the east and west intersections with Caroline Street. He also asked that Capital Ale House staff and contractors use parking outside the immediate downtown area so that parking would be available for visitors and shoppers.
The author of the petition, Jerry Ulman, the owner of Ulman’s Jewelry on Caroline Street, declined to comment yesterday.
Cameron said city staff has not yet discussed in detail how the event went. He said it “generally seemed to go well.” He said he’s had both positive and negative emails.
“Were there some issues and problems? Yes. We’re going to spend some time trying to understand the cause of the problems and what can be done to improve that in the future,” he said.
Mitchell said “whatever mistakes were made in the past were corrected,” and he was happy with how business went Saturday.
“I commend the city for a job well done,” he said.
Former Mayor Bill Beck, who owns Beck’s Antiques and Books at 708 Caroline Street, also agreed that the event was run better this year than last, but said his business was still hurt that day.
Tony Than, the manager of Fortune Gourmet at 923 Caroline St., said he had about the same business he would have gotten any other Saturday. He supported the event, though.
“It’s good. Very good. It brings people down. They get to know old town Fredericksburg. It’s a gathering for everyone,” he said. “We should have this every year.”
Laura Ragland, owner of R&R Antiques at 1001 Caroline Street, said she liked that Oktoberfest was downtown.
“I think in the long run that it does help our business,” she said.
She said there were more people in the store Saturday but not as many buyers.
“They are people that will come back in the future,” she said.
Vice Mayor Brad Ellis tapped the ceremonial first keg at the celebration and said he has gotten positive feedback from several people, including some who came from Richmond and Fairfax.
He spoke highly of the “Kidtoberfest” celebration, which was new this year and geared toward families.
The family-friendly festivities were in Market Square and included an “interactive journey through Germany,” including German food, healthy German recipes, root-beer-making demonstrations, German sewing crafts and information on local German settlers.
The $2 cover charge brought in $14,000 for the Fredericksburg Area Service League.
Police had few problems with thousands who crowded into downtown.
Fredericksburg Police spokeswoman Natatia Bledsoe said there were no more arrests for drunkenness than on other weekends.
She said incidents confirmed to be related to Oktoberfest include three arrests for public intoxication and two for driving under the influence. There was a fight involving three men at Capital Ale House Saturday night.
Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413