Thousands of people will fill the streets of downtown Seymour over the next three days.
Ensuring visitors to the 45th annual Oktoberfest have a great but safe time requires the efforts of a small army of people, including many of the men and women who work for the city.
That includes officers with the Seymour Police Department, who have put some additional security measures in place because of the largest mass shooting in the United States during a concert Sunday in Las Vegas. At least 59 people died in that attack, and 527 were injured.
“Every year about this time, there has always been something happen around the world that sets everybody off on high alert,” Police Chief Bill Abbott said.
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He said for the most part, everybody who comes to Oktoberfest are decent people, and there usually are not any problems.
Twenty-five years ago, however, police could count on fights every night of the festival, especially in the Biergarten, Abbott said.
Over the past 10 or 12 years, there have not been any major issues, even there, he said.
Abbott said he generally has an additional eight to 10 officers working during Oktoberfest.
He said one of the advantages of conducting the festival on downtown streets is there are plenty of places for people to evacuate from the area if it ever became necessary.
“Luckily, everything is wide open here,” Abbott said. “We have plans in place for a lot of things already. I hope that everybody just has a good time.”
The city department of public works, with about 40 workers, handles the biggest part of the workload in the days before, during and after the festival, which is always conducted on the first weekend containing the first Saturday in October.
In the weeks leading up to the festival, city workers give the curbs a fresh coat of paint. Just a few days before the festival begins, they replace the street signs with ones containing the German names of streets.
At 6 p.m. on the Tuesday of the week of the festival, city workers close downtown streets and start putting the electrical panels in place so booth operators have power.
“Any of the vendors who need assistance getting their trailers in, we will help them with that,” said Bill Everhart, director of public works.
On Wednesday, workers with the department spend a good part of the day setting up the Biergarten, which requires fencing.
After the festival shuts down at 11 p.m., workers will come in and blow all trash out into the center of the street and move all of the tables out of the way, Everhart said.
The streets are then cleaned by a street sweeper with the sanitation department.
“We then set the tables back in place,” he said. “That’s all things no one knows happens.”
During the festival, the six city employees with the parks and recreation department help keep trash cleaned up and trash bins empty.
The parks and recreation department workers also are in charge of transporting the picnic tables and setting up the three stages and the accompanying bleachers prior to the festival. They also set up the tables for the Biergarten.
At 11:01 p.m. Saturday, city workers begin the cleanup by removing all of the picnic tables and taking them to Shields Park or Gaiser Park. The information booth and ice house come out next.
“When the information booth is gone, that’s kind of the clue to the vendors that they can come in and start getting their stuff out,” Everhart said.
City workers then spend the early morning hours of Sunday removing the electrical boxes and cleaning up.
“Usually by 4 or 5 a.m. Sunday morning, you can’t tell anything happened,” he said. “Basically everything we do is behind the scenes.”
Ben Stahl, president of the Oktoberfest board, said Tuesday that the setup was going smoothly and ahead of schedule.
A project to upgrade the electrical system for the festival was wrapped up Tuesday morning, he said.
“We tested everything, and it was all working,” Stahl said. “In the past, we hadn’t been able to give full capacity to the whole festival, and now, we can. It’s a little safer from the standpoint of loads on the boxes.”
For Whitney Kovener, an environmental specialist with the Jackson County Health Department, Oktoberfest is one of his busiest times each year.
That’s because the festival generally has about 70 food booths, while Fort Vallonia Days has about 40, and the Jackson County Fair has about 35.
Kovener said he looks for the basics when inspecting booths.
“Proper temperatures and personal hygiene,” he said. “Making sure they have their hands washed and not having barehanded contact with ready-to-eat food so they are using gloves and tongs and wearing hair restraints.”
Kovener said he usually inspects all nonprofit booths Wednesday before the festival because they are allowed to open for business. This year, 12 of the 69 booths are nonprofits. The other food booths are inspected Thursday morning.
That’s when Fire Chief Brad Lucas and an inspector with the Seymour Fire Department also come in and inspect fire extinguishers and extension cords. Fire retardant also is sprayed on bales of straws and cornstalks.
“A couple of inspectors from the state will be coming down to go with us,” Lucas said.
An inspector with the city department of planning and zoning also will be joining those inspections.