Has Oktoberfest outgrown its lederhosen? Plus: Mourning Dom DeLuise, cashing in on the All-Star Game, and spotting signs of spring.

May 13, 2009 at 4:00 am
Is Soulard Oktoberfest Too Big for Soulard?
The Soulard Oktoberfest may be forced to move downtown this year.

Alderwoman Phyllis Young, the Historic Soulard Market Merchant's Association and a handful of neighborhood residents say the annual festival, entering its sixth year, has outgrown its location in Soulard Park, next to the market, and that drunken revelers wreak havoc on homes in the surrounding area.

"People in Soulard have never shown that they mind a party," Young says. "But they do mind a party that's not respectful of the neighborhood. The Oktoberfest people say they don't want to grow, they want it to be a neighborhood thing, but revenue and crowds show they are growing and the neighborhood says, 'We don't want another Mardi Gras.'"

"People get drunk at Mardi Gras, but I've never seen people drunk like they are at Oktoberfest," adds Young, whose ward includes parts of Soulard, downtown and Lafayette Square. "They stand there urinating on a house and pulling flowers out of a flower box. They're falling, drunk on the curbs."

Organizers of the festival, held the first weekend of October to celebrate German culture and beer, say they have widespread community support.

"If the neighborhood doesn't want us, then we're glad to go. But so far, the very opposite is true," says John McKinstry, the festival's founder. McKinstry says he's gathered more than 500 signatures from Soulard residents in favor of keeping the festival in its current location.

Young says other problems created by the festival include taking up parking spots intended for market customers, blocking traffic on Lafayette Avenue (several blocks of which are shut down for the festival) and damaging city sidewalks by hammering tent stakes into the pavement.

Young adds that if the festival organizers can't address these problems, she'll ask them to move this year's party downtown, between North Tucker Boulevard and North 14th Street, and Market and Pine streets.

Victor Wendl, president of the Soulard Oktoberfest Benevolent Association, the nonprofit organization that runs the festival, says he's aware of Young's concerns and has taken steps to address them.

"If we didn't have the support of the community, we'd be gone," Wendl says. "But the evidence shows we have that support."
—Keegan Hamilton

Dom DeLuise, 1933-2009, Not From St. Louis
The world mourns the death of comedian Dom DeLuise, who passed away after a long illness.

Unreal mourns DeLuise, too — as we have mourned all of those who costarred with him in Blazing Saddles and preceded him in death. Unreal is by no means a cineaste — heck, we'd sooner bowl than watch a movie (any movie) — but Blazing Saddles, a work of movie-making genius, occupies a special place in our heart. Here's the thing you might be asking yourself, though: Dom DeLuise is not from St. Louis. Dom DeLuise has nada to do with St. Louis. Blazing Saddles has nothing to do with St. Louis, either. So why is Unreal hogging prominent RFT website real estate while having a good cry over the man's portly corpse?

Unreal knew the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was "partnering" with an outfit called Legacy.com to provide online obits. But we'd previously assumed the clientele was limited to the local citizenry. You know, a web-based version of the paid obituaries you see in most (if not all) print dailies.

We never knew until today that whilst perusing the Associated Press obituaries of celebrities and other luminaries from around the globe we could, with a mere click of the ol' Logitech, post our own tribute in a virtual "guestbook" alongside similar heartfelt expressions of sympathy from folks all over! How frickin' cool is that? When we get finished waxing rhapsodic over Dom DeLuise, we're gonna buzz on over to Bea Arthur's guestbook and Jack Kemp's. By then we'll be all cried out.

Ballpark Figures: Just How Big a Cash Cow Is the All-Star Game?
Hard to believe, but once upon a time in America, the All-Star Game was a one-day affair. There was no State Farm-sponsored Home Run Derby, no Gatorade All-Star Workout Day, no FanFest, live concerts or celebrity softball games, where ex-Hall-of-Famers flail around the old ball yard with has-been actors.

Best of all, fans didn't vote, the manager of each team didn't give a rat's petunia about getting everyone into the game, and the damn thing was played on Tuesday, in the afternoon, no less. I am not making this up.

For years now the Midsummer Classic has gone deeper and deeper into extra innings, with no end in sight. In fact, Major League Baseball has now come to refer to it as All-Star Week. Can All-Star Month be far behind?

  Of course, from a purely economic perspective, stretching out the All-Star festivities is right up there with a walk-off grand slam.

"This is a pretty unique event, what with six days of activities," says Richard Fleming, president and CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA). Fleming estimates that the July 14 game at Busch Stadium, and all the ancillary activities surrounding it, will bring some $60 million into the bistate region.

But how does anyone really know how much money something like this will generate? It's all just a ballpark figure, right?

"No, we have constructed a model, which is, essentially, based on our experiences with actual events over the years," explains Fleming. "We try and calculate the number of out-of-towners who will come, how many dollars they will spend, the entertainment dollars that will go to restaurant and retail outlets, the indirect impact of that spending in the region. And we factor in local spending and so on. There's something of a science to it all."

Whatever the case, if Fleming's $60 million projection is even close to being on the money, well, that's a lot of money. Consider: Ruth Sergenian, chief economist for the RCGA, said this year's Mardi Gras brought $20 million to the region, based on the same model Fleming spoke of. The NCAA wrestling event was good for $14 million. Last year's BMW golf championship delivered $28 million.

So there you have it. As Garrett Morris as Chico Esculo on Saturday Night Live used to say, "Baseball been berry, berry good to me."— Ellis E. Conklin

Signs of Spring in St. Louis: Ted Drewes, Cardinals Baseball and Brick Thieves
The days are getting longer and warmer. Perfect time to work in the garden, take in a ball game, eat ice cream and participate in that oh-so-St.-Louis activity: brick rustlin'.

As preservationist Michael Allen reports on his blog, Ecology of Absence, the brick thieves are out of hibernation and making short work of an abandoned home on Maiden Lane near the intersection of North Jefferson and Cass avenues. The house, according to Allen, is owned by McEagle Properties — a development company that has acquired hundreds of north St. Louis lots and buildings.

Allen notes that it's strange that brick thieves have evaded detection from authorities on this particular property, seeing how the home's "west wall faces out at busy Jefferson Avenue, not far from the police station.

"In the middle of a flagging economy, brick theft could be elevated this summer," warns Allen. "It's time for all of us to get tough — city government, police and neighbors. Let's hope this summer does not see a wave of destruction like the ones that hit the north side in the past two years."
—Chad Garrison