By Jack Crawley
Old Town Times staff writer
While Old Town’s Oktoberfest aims to make a cultural impact as “Mid-Michigan’s only German-style event,” it also makes a major contribution to the Old Town Commercial Association’s finances — to the (polka) tune of almost 20% of its annual budget.
OTCA Executive Director Brittney Hoszkiw confirmed that the 2010 Oktoberfest brought in more than $12,000, and she expects this year’s festival, on Friday, Oct. 7 and Saturday Oct. 8,, to be even bigger. This is the festival’s sixth year and Hoszkiw says it has consistently made a profit for OTCA.
Festivals like Oktoberfest, as well as the Festival of the Sun and Festival of the Moon which celebrate the longest day and the shortest night of the year, are a fun night on the town for the general public, but they’re much more than that to OTCA. Together, the three events make up 70% of OTCA’s budget. The rest of OTCA’s funding comes mostly from memberships and grants. Here’s a look at the breakdown of the OTCA’s 2010 budget income:
Festivals and events not only help the OTCA and Old Town financially, but they help bring exposure to the community: “Festivals and events bring large groups to the Old Town neighborhood that wouldn’t normally visit while reinforcing a brand or experience and raising funds for a good cause. It is a win-win-win,” said Hoszkiw.
Naturally, this also helps local businesses.
Kristin Szymusiak, the owner of Polka Dots, a boutique in Old Town, said that while Oktoberfest helps bring in some business, it’s limited because it is held in a nearby parking lot and drinks must be kept in the tents there. Szymusiak credits other festivals with bringing in plenty of business: “Jazz Fest and Blues Fest are the biggest festivals down here. [They] bring down thousands of people; some people that have never been down here before. They realize how cool it is, and then they come back and they tell all of their friends, so I think all of the festivals help bring people down here.”
Favorites Cafe has not yet experienced Oktoberfest (the cafe will celebrate it’s one year anniversary Nov. 12). Co-owner Kim Robertson expects it to give her business a boost.
“For the most part it’s slow (in Old Town), but getting Oktoberfest, Jazz Fest, Blues Fest, we get tons of people, so that means lots of people who don’t know we’re here are now walking in and saying ‘Oh! New place!’ And from what I’ve found with Blues Fest and Jazz Fest just recently is the people who I didn’t know before, that Monday or Tuesday after those festivals were down here, were coming back,” Robertson said.
While these festivals draw thousands of visitors, Michigan State University journalism senior Jennifer Raye believes that they would be even more successful if they were promoted more strongly to MSU students. Raye had not previously heard about Oktoberfest, but her interest was immediately piqued when she saw the headlining band of the weekend, the Polish Muslims. “I would specifically go for the Polish Muslims. It’s a band my dad would make me listen to when I was younger, and they had songs about weasels and Jesus,” Raye said. “I would go just to listen to them.”
Tickets to Oktoberfest are available through the event website. Tickets are $13 each if purchased before 10p.m. on Thurs., Oct. 6 and $17 at the door. The price includes admission to the festival, a souvenir beer mug and three food and drink tickets. The festival is located in the park and parking lot on the corner of Turner Street and Grand River Avenue.
Please see the OTCA annual budget below.