In the days leading up to the annual Seymour Oktoberfest, carnival rides and food, activity and craft booths begin moving into the downtown.

Vendors decorate their booths and do all of the necessary tasks to be ready for the thousands of people who visit the three-day festival, which is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

But before all of that happens, there are people behind the scenes who take care of the logistics to ensure everything is safe and clean. That work continues during and after the festival.

The Seymour Oktoberfest board works nearly year-round planning the festival.

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Then the week of the festival, the board receives help from the Department of Public Works, Parks and Recreation Department, Seymour Police Department, Seymour Fire Department, other city departments and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department in the setup and cleanup processes.

Kay Schwade, chairwoman of the festival board, said a lot of credit goes to the 20-member board and the city departments.

“The city involvement is crucial to this festival, and they don’t get the thanks I think that it should,” she said.

“It is organized chaos, and when it’s done, you just go, ‘Wow! It happened.’ When they start coming in Tuesday night, it looks like a free-for-all, and you think, ‘How is this ever going to happen?’” she said.

“But the vendors do a great job, and we’ve got an absolute wonderful board. The board members are great team players. Everybody does not just their part, but they are willing to pitch in and do whatever needs to be done to help somebody else. With that, we are able to put it all together.”

Before the festival

The board begins talking about the festival in December and then starts meeting in January.The mayor and leaders of the parks and recreation, planning and zoning, public works, police and fire departments are a part of the board. The other 14 members are community members.

Vendor applications are accepted from April through May 15, but they come rolling in at earlier points in the year, said festival board member Joshua Ratliff.

On the Sunday morning before the festival, board members mark off spaces for the food, activity and craft booths. This year, there are nearly 70 food vendors and 50 craft booths.

Schwade said the festival can’t grow much more because all spaces for food booths are filled.

“We have a laundry list of people wanting to get in,” she said.

The number of craft booths has grown in the past couple of years, thanks to the work of board members Marla McNabb and Rachel Voss.

“They’ve done a really good job of recruiting and seeking out new (vendors),” Schwade said. “We’re about at max. I’m sure they can shuffle some people around maybe and make up some extra space.”

The Department of Public Works begins planning weeks in advance, said Chad Dixon with the street department.

Before the carnival rides are placed in the B&O Parking Lot, a public works crew mows so the area looks neat and tidy.

They also put up snow fencing, change the street signs to coordinate with their German names and clean off streets and sidewalks.

Then at 6 p.m. Tuesday, barricades are placed around the downtown so vendors can begin setting up.

A Parks and Recreation Department crew gathers more than 120 picnic tables from the city’s parks and brings them downtown, and public works employees help unload them. The entertainment stages and bleachers also are placed.

Most of Wednesday is spent putting up the more than 60 metal panels that make up the biergarten fence. It takes about 10 people to work on that task.

One hundred 96-gallon toters also are brought downtown for people to throw away trash, and recycling bins are placed.

Sanitation supervisor John Edwards said there won’t be dumpsters this year because of them being a safety issue when they are emptied. Instead, vendors will throw their trash in one of three trash trucks parked in alleys in the downtown.

Wednesday night consists of some final checks of the downtown to ensure the festival is ready to go.

During the festival

Once the festival officially begins, city employees will be stationed in the areas of the carnival, food booths and craft booths to empty trash when needed and ensure everything stays clean.They also check to ensure barricades remain in place, fix trip hazards and clean sidewalks.

Board members can be found inside the information booth at the intersection of Chestnut and Second streets answering questions, making announcements and giving directions.

“We see people that we might see once a year, but we also get to see how much it’s enjoyed,” Schwade said. “It’s worth it when you see families who use this for their reunion or classes that use this for a reunion. It’s a real joy to see them all meet here. It’s like you’re able to put this on, and they are able to use it in that way.”

At the end of each day, the picnic tables and trash and recycling bins in the middle of Chestnut and Second streets are pushed to the side for the street sweeper to clean the streets. Trash also is removed. On average, a half-ton of trash is collected during the three-day festival, Edwards said.

After the festival

When 11 p.m. Saturday rolls around, vendors have until midnight to have everything moved out.City employees spend about an hour loading the picnic tables onto trailers to take back to the parks.

Bob Tabeling, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said seven picnic tables can be hauled on a trailer at a time, and four trailers are used. Drivers deliver the picnic tables to the parks, where a small crew helps unload them.

In the area of the festival, public works employees pick up trash, clean the streets and take down fencing and barricades. Dixon said the time it takes to do that work depends on the weather and manpower.

“If weather hits and the crowd dwindles quickly, we may be able to start early,” Dixon said. “I’ve been to a festival on Saturday night and we’ve cleaned up by 1 o’clock. I’ve been to others and it has been almost 4 o’clock. It just varies, really, on your manpower and experience.”

In the past, some vendors have helped with cleanup, Dixon said.

“We set it up, and they help by taking it down,” he said. “They do a really good job at that.”

About 50 public works employees work during the festival.

“Everyone has a hand in it one way or another, whether it be bringing totes down, whether it be cleaning up, the prefest or just doing something at the shop to get it ready to bring down here,” Dixon said. “Everybody really chips in.”

On top of the employees’ 40-hour workweek, Edwards said several get another 40 hours of overtime during the festival.

But that’s what it takes to make the festival safe and clean, he said.

“We get a lot of thank-yous through this week,” Edwards said.

A week or two after the festival, the board will meet to discuss what went right and wrong and talk about ideas for next year’s festival. Later in the year, planning for the 45th annual festival will start.

Tabeling, who is in his first year as parks and recreation director, said it has been interesting to see all of the coordination it takes to pull off Oktoberfest.

“It’s one of those things I’ve been coming to for years, but you didn’t realize all of that,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize everything that goes into it.”

At a glance

Schedule of events for 44th annual Seymour Oktoberfest

For information, visit seymouroktoberfest.com or call 812-523-1414.

Today

10 a.m. to noon: Baking contest at the Community Foundation of Jackson County, 107 Community Drive

11 a.m. to 11 pm.: Booths and biergarten open

5 to 11 p.m.: Carnival rides and games open

6 to 8 p.m.: Register for baby contest at the information booth

Throughout the day, look for roving musicians, including accordionist Larry VonEssen, the Lost Mill String Band and The Spoon Man.

North Stage (Third and Chestnut streets)

4:45 to 6 p.m.: Opening ceremonies; Seymour High School band concert, booth awards, window decorating awards and baking contest awards

6 to 6:30 p.m.: Prince and princess contest

8 p.m.: Free concert by The Lasting Hope

South Stage (South Chestnut Street)

6 to 7 p.m.: Stars and Stripes Cloggers

7 to 11 p.m.: Bluegrass music

West Stage (West Second Street)

6:30 to 10:30 p.m.: Schulhaus 4+3 German band, polka, bunny hop and chicken dance

Friday

11 a.m. to 11 p.m.: Booths and biergarten open

Noon to 4 p.m.: Kinderplatz Nummer Ein (One Kids Square); free painting and coloring activities

1 to 11 p.m.: Carnival rides and games open

6 to 8 p.m.: Register for baby contest at the information booth

7:30 to 8:30 p.m.: Hot Air Balloon Glow in the grass lot on the corner of West Fifth and North Walnut streets at the former site of Shields High School

Throughout the day, look for roving musicians, including accordionist Larry VonEssen, the Lost Mill String Band and The Spoon Man.

North Stage

6 to 7 p.m.: Columbus Clogging Co.

8 p.m.: Free concert by AC/DC tribute band 100% Angus

South Stage

5 to 6 p.m.: Brown Bouncing Bears jump rope team from Margaret R. Brown Elementary School

6 to 7 p.m.: Country Kickers

7 to 11 p.m.: Bluegrass music

West Stage

6:30 to 10:30 p.m.: Schulhaus 4+3 German band, polka, bunny hop and chicken dance

6:30 p.m.: Polka and chicken dance contest featuring the Second Street Dancers

Saturday

11 a.m. to 11 p.m.: Booths and biergarten open

7 to 8 a.m.: Registration for the 5K walk/run at Seymour High School

8 a.m.: 5K walk/run at Seymour High School

9 a.m.: Registration for cornhole tournament at Gaiser Park

9:20 a.m.: 5K walk/run awards presented at Seymour High School

10:15 a.m.: Cornhole tournament at Gaiser Park

10:30 a.m. to noon: Registration for horseshoe tournament at Gaiser Park

Noon: Horseshoe tournament at Gaiser Park

Noon to 4 p.m.: Kinderplatz Nummer Ein (One Kids Square); free painting and coloring activities for kids

1 p.m. to 11 p.m.: Carnival rides and games open

1:30 p.m.: Parade starts on Community Drive

4 p.m.: Game of SKATE at the Schurman and Grubb Memorial Skatepark

4 p.m.: Stein hoist at the biergarten

4 p.m.: Hot air balloons arrive at grass lot on the corner of West Fifth and North Walnut streets

Throughout the day, look for roving musicians, including accordionist Larry VonEssen, the Lost Mill String Band and The Spoon Man.

North Stage

9:30 to 10:30 a.m.: Baby contest

3 to 5 p.m.: Free concert by These Fine Gentlemen

5 p.m.: Presentation of parade trophies

6:30 p.m.: Brat eating contest

7:30 to 9 p.m.: Talent show

South Stage

3:30 to 5:30 p.m.: Cornerstone Community Church Praise Team

5:45 to 6:45 p.m.: Southern Indiana Taiko (Japanese drumming)

7 to 11 p.m.: Bluegrass music

West Stage

2:30 to 4 p.m.: Schulhaus 4+3 German band

6:30 to 10:30 p.m.: Schulhaus 4+3 German band

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.