Oktoberfest Stays in Soulard Despite Alderwoman's Objections

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These ladies and their lederhosen may be leaving Soulard in 2010 - photo by Steve Truesdell
photo by Steve Truesdell
These ladies and their lederhosen may be leaving Soulard in 2010
Last time we checked in on Soulard Oktoberfest, a controversy was brewing between the festival's organizers and Alderwoman Phyllis Young (Ward 7), who felt the party and its drunken revelers had become too big for its lederhosen and needed to find a new location.

Well, Oktoberfest 2009 is now a week and a half away and not much has changed. After a round of back-and-forth negotiations and a promise to keep party-goers from peeing in public and tearing up the neighborhood's flower beds, the festival will once again take place in Soulard's Market Park. Young, however, still has strong objections to holding the event in her ward and, as a result, Oktoberfest's organizers say they will find a new venue next year.

"We agreed to do it in the market one more year, then we'd seek a place elsewhere," says Oktoberfest founder John McKinstry, citing Lyon Park near the Budweiser Brewery as a possible destination. "We want to have the festival in Soulard. We are the Soualrd Oktoberfest. You don't have the Soulard Oktoberfest in Potosi or downtown or anywhere else."

Young doesn't see it that way.

"They envision it as neighborhood festival but their appeal is much broader," she says. "They're using billboards out on highways to advertise this. Can it really be a neighborhood festival?"

Phyllis Young
Phyllis Young
According to McKinstry, it certainly can. After Young's push to move the six year-old festival downtown earlier this year, he gathered more than 800 signatures from Soulard residents-- including fifty-five from Soulard Farmer's Market vendors-- who supported keeping the festival in its original location.

Several neighborhood groups (to which Oktoberfest, a not-for-profit organization, contributed more than $60,000 last year), including the Soulard Restoration Group and the Soulard Business Association, have also come out in favor of the event.

Seemingly the only faction opposed to Oktoberfest's stay in Market Park is the board of the Historic Soulard Market Merchants Association, which voted 4-2 (with two abstentions) against a proposal to keep the festival as a neighbor.

"It is a very small number lined up against it, but they got the ear of the alderwoman," says Billy Tomber, a board member of the Soulard Restoration Group. "Certainly the vast majority of people in the area -- not even the ward, but the area affected by all this -- signed a petition saying we want to keep it here."

Young, though, maintains that there are many in her ward who feel otherwise.

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