Monday, September 18, 2000

Oktoberfest may log record crowds, sales

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For Howard Smith, Sunday offered professional insights and unqualified joy.

        The Smyrna, Ga., city administrator stood at Fifth and Vine streets in downtown Cincinnati about 2:30 p.m. watching the 25th Oktoberfest Zinzinnati crowd. He took in the traffic and crowd control, how beer was sold and ethnic groups sharing the fun.

        “I love street festivals and bringing people back downtown,” said Mr. Smith, in town for a city managers convention. “I've never been to one of these that I didn't enjoy.”

        Unprecedented sales at many Oktoberfest souvenir booths suggested a record crowd of about 500,000, said Raymond L. Buse III, spokesman for the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.

        Cool weather helped both Saturday and Sunday, as many people bought Oktoberfest sweat shirts and wore them.

        “God must be German,” Mr. Buse said. “God must love German food.”

        Robert Hearn had a “peck-tacular” weekend selling chicken hats for $10 each. He expected to sell 2,500 hats and could have sold more if he'd hired more men to cruise the crowd with hats held aloft on prongs of bamboo rakes.

        Why not? Everyone else did. Schnitzel, pork, brats, metts, sauerkraut balls, artery-clogging pastries and beer were moving across the counters as fast as cooks and helpers could move.

        They didn't get any competition from downtown restaurants like Maisonette and Jeff Ruby's, which were closed Sunday night. Redfish was among those that remained open.

        The Hamilton County SPCA reported Sunday that 58 cats offered for adoption at its Oktoberfest booth found homes. The SPCA joined with Purina Cat Chow to educate festival-goers about pet ownership; the number of adoptions was the highest ever for a Purina program, held in 25 cities nationwide each year.

        Watching all the Oktoberfest hoopla Sunday with pride and pleasure was George Fraundorfer, owner of Black Forest Restaurant in Pisgah.

        “I was one of the originators 25 years ago ... to bring our German culture to the city,” he said. “It's been worth it and it's good for the restaurant.”

        Among hard-core Oktoberfesters jamming Fifth Street were Greg Braun, of Hyde Park, and his chicken-hatted son, Charlie, 5, who were back for a second day. “It would be three but there aren't three days,” Mr. Braun said.


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