Crowds of people descended on downtown Seymour this past weekend to celebrate the community’s German heritage with plenty of good food, music and fun,
The annual Oktoberfest, however, also serves another purpose for the thousands of people who have found their way downtown on the first weekend of October for the past 44 years.
Holly Bateman Bennett and her husband, Jim Bennett of Whiteland brought their three daughters to the festival Saturday in what they all described as a family tradition dating back more than 13 years.
Holly, who is originally from Seymour, said that in addition to the bonding time with her family, Oktoberfest is a chance to see friends and acquaintances that she may not have seen in years.
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“The adults come for the food, I think the kids come more for the crafts,” Jim Bennett said Saturday afternoon at One Chamber Square, which changes to Kinderplatz Nummer Ein or One Kids’ Square for Oktoberfest. The area offers free crafts and activities for children.
His daughter, Claire Bennett, quickly corrected him.
“Food, rides, games, fun, everything,” she said.
It doesn’t take growing up in Seymour to enjoy Oktoberfest.
Kendra Goode, and her son, Cole Goode, 5, are from Bloomington. They have been coming to Oktoberfest for several years.
Kendra said they both enjoy trying different foods at the festival. This year, Kendra’s favorite were the kabobs, while Cole liked the cheese curds.
The Seymour Oktoberfest’s official kickoff was Thursday night.
The festival started with a performance by the Seymour High School Marching Owls under the direction of Kevin Cottrill.
Teddy Delacruz ate 25 brats to retain his title in the brat eating contest, while talent show winners were Emryne and Bowling in the peewee division; Savannah Rose Stoffregen in the junior division; Pateince Vogel in the senior division; and the Signs of Singing group featuring Jenna Wheeler, Nicole Wheeler and Ashley Mike in the adult division.
The results of the annual Oktoberfest Prince and Princess were announced with the crowning of Walker Sutherland, 6, and Sydney Stout, 6.
Vendors found plenty of buyers for their food and crafts throughout the three-day event with Mother Nature’s cooperation. The only significant rain fell about 15 minutes before the festival shut down Saturday night.
Musicians, including 100% Angus: an AC/DC tribute band, These Fine Gentlemen and The Lasting Hope, along with various bluegrass bands and the Schulhaus 4+3 German band occupied the three festival stages and roaming musicians walked the downtown streets.
“It’s just a joy,” said Larry Von Essen, an accordionist who performed Saturday with his son, Joey Von Essen. “The people are the best. Seeing people with young kids looking up at you and what it is you’re playing.”
“I like the people, and it’s fun to play,” said Joey Von Essen.
Larry said although many think of the accordion as a German instrument, it’s actually a universal one.
“I’ve played at Scottish festivals, Oktoberfest, all sorts of events,” Larry said.
He said he wanted to try letting Joey play with him in a good atmosphere to allow his son to enjoy the same musical instrument he does and do it without the pressure there would be at a recital or performing on stage for an audience.
“I think the accordion just brings joy to people,” Joey said.
The Bennetts, the Von Essens and the Goodes all agreed that Seymour’s Oktoberfest is one of the best among area festivals because it’s clean, friendly and organized, they said.
That’s something festival board member Jeremy Gray said the Oktoberfest committee works very hard to ensure happens each year.
“If it wasn’t for the city, it wouldn’t come together every year,” said Gray, who also is Seymour’s building commissioner.
On the Tuesday night and Wednesday before the festival, a small army of city workers begin the transformation from a normal city street into a festival venue and just like Cinderella, after midnight Saturday, the city reverts back to its previous form.
“Wait ’til 3 a.m., and you won’t even know there was a festival here,” Gray said.
The city workers can be seen each day of the festival keeping the city streets clean of trash and debris.
In addition, Gray said the Seymour Fire Department and Jackson County Health Department inspects all the booths and the venue to make sure everything meets standards of safety and cleanliness.
This year, the festival saw an increase in attendance from recent years, Gray said. That’s due in large part to the cooler weather than previous weeks and less rain than in the past, he said.
Besides a larger crowd, the information booth collected information about out-of-town visitors to Oktoberfest. People from as far away as Hawaii have attended the event.
Gray said he believes part of the reason for the success of the Seymour Oktoberfest is due in part to the Oktoberfest committee that helps plan and organize the event.
The board has a number of members with more than 15 years of experience; however, Gray said there’s always room for new members with new ideas.
“There’s always work to be done,” he said.
Gray said the board will meet soon and discuss any complaints or suggestions for next year’s Oktoberfest and then the planning will begin all over again.