Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Few problems at Oktoberfest

By Cindy Schroeder cschroeder@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON - Oktoberfest has cleaned up its act and posted “one of the best crowds ever,” organizers and police said on cleanup Monday.

        Police made nine arrests, mostly for alcohol-related offenses, but otherwise reported few problems at the 24th annual MainStrasse Village Association Oktoberfest that attracted an estimated 200,000 during the three-day event ending Sunday.

        Covington Police Spc. George Russell said Oktoberfest arrests have dropped in recent years, largely because of an increased police presence. Unlike past years, there were no arrests for underage drinking.

        Covington police said there was one arrest for fraudulent use of a credit card, one arrest for theft, and four arrests for alcohol intoxication. Kentucky State Police arrested one person for driving under the influence, and festivalgoers also were arrested on a couple of outstanding warrants.

        This year, 13 nonprofit groups ran 19 beer and game booths, and Immaculate Conception Academy in Norwood, which helped with Oktoberfest set-up and cleanup, also benefited.

        “This is our biggest fund-raiser,” said Denise Cole, a teacher and parent at the school. “We ask every family in the parish to put in four-hour shifts (before, during and after) the festival.”

        MainStrasse resident Sandy Arnold, who has been an outspoken critic of MainStrasse festivals, agreed that “inside the festival grounds it's great,” but she said Oktoberfest continues to cause problems for nearby residents.

        She said that residents complained to her about lack of parking because vendors took many of the available parking spots in parking lots that were supposed to be for residents.

        Mrs. Arnold, who has lived in the MainStrasse neighborhood most of her 33 years, said that residents also were concerned about inadequate cleanup throughout the festival area, as well as damage to Goebel Park from beer trailers parked there.

        “The city has rules against alcohol in the park,” Mrs. Arnold said. “If someone wants to have a reception in the park, they can't even have a glass of champagne. Yet they allow these beer vendors to park there and put up a drinking tent.”

        “We can always do better with regard to parking and cleanup, and we always strive to do that,” said Tom Steidel, assistant Covington city manager. “I feel their pain, but I don't know how to fix it. There's only so much we can do, and we've done a lot.”

        Mr. Steidel said Covington raised its festival beer prices about four years ago, and he said officials have brought in state alcohol beverage control officers to help curb underage drinking.

        In other changes, a stage was added on Main Street to relieve some of the congestion on Sixth Street, and he said the recent Oktoberfest was the fourth event to feature a fire lane on Sixth Street from Bakewell to Main Streets.

        Molly Navin, a resident of the adjacent Mutter Gottes neighborhood, credited a Kenton County sheriff's deputy with reducing Oktoberfest problems in her neighborhood. Thanks to a deputy stationed at a public parking lot on Sixth Street between Johnson and Craig Streets, Mutter Gottes residents were able to find parking spots during Oktoberfest, she said.

        About 9:30 Saturday night, a transformer at Bakewell and Sixth Streets failed, leaving 15 customers in the MainStrasse neighborhood without power for over five hours said Kathy Meinke, Cinergy spokeswoman. Crews replaced the transformer with a new one that was twice as large.

        “I can't say why it failed,” Ms. Meinke said. “Certainly Mother Nature keeping us hot as long as it has had an impact of some sort.”


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