By Margie M. Palmer
This year’s Oktoberfest will again see some changes now that the city of La Mesa has officially gotten out of the event-planning business.
In 2016, city officials decided to take on the production of Oktoberfest when they realized that the future of the event was in jeopardy. This year, they’ve passed the torch to the newly formed La Mesa Village Association (LMVA).
La Mesa Senior Management Analyst Lyn Dedmon said that up until last year, Oktoberfest had been produced by the now-defunct La Mesa Merchants Association. Locals say that prior to the LMMA’s dissolvement, the overall quality of Oktoberfest had begun to go downhill.
City officials said they felt it was important to both keep the event going and to reverse its downward trend.
“The city took over management of Oktoberfest last year because we realized that once an event like this stops, even for a year or two, it’s hard to get going again,” Dedmon said. “But now, the city has passed off management to the La Mesa Village Association (LMVA) after they put in a request to take over management of Oktoberfest. This year, the city has gone back to its original role, which is to process permits, public works and police safety at the event.”
And despite being happy to have passed the torch, Dedmon said the city feels that last year’s event went very well.
“We received a lot of feedback on our website and we received verbal feedback at the City Council meeting afterward. It was overwhelmingly good and we heard a lot of good things about the entertainment lineup,” he said.
“We did receive some complaints as well, which mainly focused on the food options not being authentic and not having enough places to sit down in the heat, but for the most part the responses were overwhelmingly positive and we felt like we got the arrow pointing back up again.”
LMVA Chairman Aaron Dean said the association took all of that feedback into consideration; they also hired San Diego event coordinator and planner McFarlane Promotions to help build upon what the city did last year.
“We wanted to make sure that Oktoberfest moved in the direction the community was asking for. We wanted to make it a lot more family friendly and this year, we’ll have two kids areas and a Ferris wheel. We also wanted to make the entertainment and music more approachable for families,” Dean said. “The second part of what we looked at was the vendors. In the past, the majority were corporate and not crafts or artists. This year, we’re trying to make the transition into having a lot more craft and local vendors.”
McFarlane Promotions self-proclaimed “Event Jedi” Camille Riley said McFarlane is committed to bringing Oktoberfest back to the way people saw it before.
“A lot of us at McFarlane had gone to this when we were kids and we continued to go as adults, and we really want to bring it back to where it used to be. We wanted to incorporate more arts and crafts and family things while also bringing in new elements, like a German car show,” she said. “There will also be a lot of hands-on workshops because we wanted to make the event more interactive. We’re also bringing in a craft-spirit garden, so while we’re trying to bring Oktoberfest back to what it was in the past, we’re also trying to make it more modern.”
Last year’s seating concerns are also being addressed, she said.
“We’re working with Rafael’s Party Rental to address a lot of those concerns. We’ve ordered more seating and more types of seating,” Riley said. “One of the problems last year was that you could order food but you had no place to sit and enjoy it, so we’re going to have a mix of seating that includes belly bars, picnic tables, we’ll have chairs and tables sprinkled throughout the event and we’ll also have a large amount of seating in the beer garden.”
Dean said that the LMVA is excited about all the changes and that the organization looks forward to producing a successful event.
“Our hope for this year is a combination of everything. We hope to have great weather, we hope the atmosphere is lively and fun and that the community feels engaged by the event and that it is something that they want to get behind, and be part of, year after year.”
The 2017 La Mesa Oktoberfest will take place on Friday, Sept. 29 from 4 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 30 from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; and on Sunday, Oct. 1 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit lamesaoktoberfest.org.
—Margie M. Palmer is a San Diego-based freelancer who has been racking up bylines in a myriad of news publications for the past decade. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.