The first Seymour Oktoberfest in 1973 almost ended before it even began.
A thunderstorm with gusty winds ripped through the downtown on the afternoon the festival was set to begin, tearing apart many of the booths that had been set up earlier in the day on West Second and Chestnut streets.
But once the storm had passed, people regrouped to fix the damage, and the Oktoberfest officially got underway, just a little later than scheduled.
Tom Fettig and Opal Fosbrink were the first chairs of the Oktoberfest.
The mayor of Seymour at the time was Chris Moritz, and the festival attracted many local, state and even national dignitaries who attended a mayor’s gathering that first year.
Linda McIntire, 10, daughter of Martha McIntire and the late William McIntire, and Keith Bowman, 10, were crowned the first festival princess and prince.
Crowds upward of 10,000 people filled the downtown streets over three days to celebrate the community’s German heritage with food, activities and crafts.
There were around 75 different booths, a carnival with rides that operated on Chestnut Street, an antique show, a teen dance and a biergarten.
Although it has moved locations, the biergarten continues to be a popular attraction 44 years later. Last year, a stein hoist was added where men and women compete to see who can hold a stein, filled with brew, the longest.
A brat-eating contest, added around a decade ago, also is a crowd-pleaser.
The Oktoberfest parade had around 30 entries during its first run in 1973. Miss Indiana Karen Rogers of Indianapolis was the first parade marshal.
Now, the parade attracts around 100 floats and units. This year’s marshal is the Bicentennial Planning Committee of Jackson County and the six fiberglass Bison-Tennial bison to celebrate the state’s 200th birthday.
The first Oktoberfest was sponsored by the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce, under the direction of Larry Krukewitt. He was executive manager of the chamber from 1972-77 before leaving for a similar position in Springfield, Ohio.
Just like today, many of the booths back then were nonprofit groups trying to make money for their organizations’ service work in the community.
During the first Oktoberfest, the chamber gave away a brand new AMC Gremlin to winners Mr. and Mrs. Harold Frame of Marengo.
Hammel’s, a men’s clothing store downtown, gave away a free can of kraut to those who visited the store during the festival.
The festival was deemed a huge success by the city and all those who were involved and attended.
Dick Mayer, former editor of the North Vernon Plain Dealer, wrote a letter that appeared in the People’s Sayso column in the Oct. 10, 1973, edition of The Tribune.
“I visited your Oktoberfest last week and found it a delightful, captivating and very civilized event. Remarkable and it made a deep, favorable impression on me,” Mayer wrote. “Those who originally conceived the idea certainly should be commended.”