Considering Oktoberfest Options

To the Editor:

At the Kentlands Citizens Assembly (KCA) meeting on Feb. 27, Gaithersburg staff members presented information about the city’s recommendation for Oktoberfest (see “City Considers Replacing Oktoberfest,” The Town Courier, Feb. 22). The feeling in the room was mixed — some people feel that the event has grown too large for the community and like the idea of an arts and wine festival instead.

Here is a link to the presentation that was made at a Council meeting last month: The next work session to discuss this is on March 11 at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall’s Council chambers. I think there is some serious concern from our elected officials over this recommendation, and I’ve been told that it is by no means a done deal. I plan to attend the meeting.

Personally, I would like to see this matter reconsidered. The plan the staff presented for the arts and wine festival actually solves the major issues with Oktoberfest being overcrowded by expanding its venue to include Main Street and other areas, and I think that rethinking Oktoberfest in this manner but keeping it in our neighborhood is my preference.

The city staff is struggling with two major events close together, Celebrate Gaithersburg Day in Old Town, which they want to revitalize, and our event. This presents a heavy staff burden that would be somewhat alleviated by combining the events.

Weatherwise, October is an ideal month, so having an event here in the summer when it’s often very hot — and when people are often away — is not a great alternative. It’s also very close to the Kentlands Day event in May.

In general, I think the staff’s recommendation is problematic and sacrifices a good event for the main reason that it has been too successful.

— Neil Harris


P.S.: I am on the KCA board of directors, but this letter reflects my own opinion; the KCA has not taken a position on this at present.