Honoring leadership

The three people chosen to lead this year’s Seymour Oktoberfest parade know more about the festival than anyone.

Martha McIntire, Kathy Mead and Bob Doriot have spent much of their time organizing the Oktoberfest as members of its volunteer board of directors. 

They have dedicated a total of 80 years of service to the event, now in its 43rd year, doing everything — scheduling food booths and arts and crafts vendors, lining up entertainment and making sure there are plenty of portable toilets available for visitors’ convenience.

“These three have put in countless hours of work and time to the festival and have helped it grow into the event it is today,” said parade chairwoman LaWanda Tidd. “The festival now attracts thousands of people each year.”

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All three retired from their officer positions last year but remain connected to the festival and the community, lending a hand where needed.

This year, they will be honored as grand marshals of the parade, which steps off at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, starting at Community Drive in front of Seymour High School. With more than 100 entries coming from Seymour, Jackson County and surrounding communities, it’s one of the largest parades in southern Indiana, organizers said.

McIntire was Oktoberfest chairwoman while Mead served as president of the board, both devoting nearly 30 years each to the festival’s growth and success. Doriot put in 24 years as treasurer, keeping track of how much money the festival was making each year and how much it was spending. 

Although health problems are keeping her from going as much as she’d like, McIntire said, she plans to be down at the festival some this year and will ride in the parade.

She said she always preferred working behind the scenes, so it’s awkward being in the spotlight now.

“But I’m glad they appreciate my efforts through the years,” she said.

Doriot, who said he’s the baby of the group with only 24 years of service, agreed that being chosen as parade marshal is an honor.

“I think it’s a nice gesture,” he said. “And it will be cool to see everyone from that perspective.”

Mead added, “I’ve never been in the parade before. So I’m pleased they asked us to do it.”

It’s not easy to pick a favorite aspect of the Oktoberfest, but getting to see people having fun and enjoying the festival is rewarding, McIntire said

“When you go and see everyone having a good time, getting together with old friends, it makes me feel good,” she said. “I also like that there are so many nonprofit organizations that benefit from having food and activity booths.”

Doriot said he’s always enjoyed being a part of the committee.

“It’s been great working with the people and staying involved with the community,” he said. “It’s a good group to work with.”

“The board always worked so hard, it made our job easy,” Mead added.

McIntire said she’s glad to see so many nonprofit and charitable organizations are able to raise money through food and activity booths at the festival.

Besides getting bigger, the Oktoberfest has become more organized than it was early on, McIntire said.

“Everyone knows what they are doing, and they take care of it,” she said. “Back then we were just trying to figure it out.”

Doriot said for many the festival is just a three-day event, but for those on the committee, it’s much longer.

“For us, Oktoberfest wasn’t a seasonal thing,” he said. “It was all year long. So it’s a lot less work and trips to the bank now.”

He plans to enjoy the festival this year in a different way, he added.

“We’re going to enjoy it like regular folks,” he said. “And we’ll be working at our church booth.”

Mead said not being involved in the day-to-day operations “feels a little weird.”

“I’m going to miss that,” she said. “But I still plan on going every day to enjoy the food and to see everything.”

During the nearly three decades she’s been involved, McIntire said, the committee has made great improvements from redoing all the underground electrical wiring and hookups to providing new stages and bleachers for entertainment and a new shuttle to transport guests from the high school parking lot to the festival.

“We’ve redone pretty much everything,” she said. “I think we left things in good shape.”

Mead said she is impressed with the younger group that is now in charge.

“They are making a lot of neat changes,” she said. “They have a new website that is just wonderful, because it has so much information on it. And they are using things like Facebook and Twitter to get the word out and keep people updated. It pays to have a young generation involved.”

If you go

What: 43rd annual Seymour Oktoberfest Parade

Where: Starting at Community Drive, going east on Second Street, turning north on Walnut Street and looping back west on Fifth Street.

When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.