The City of Whitesburg will soon join countless other municipalities throughout the world in celebrating Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest originated in Munich, Germany and features the consumption of beer, sausages and other items. The Whitesburg festival was proposed at the September meeting of the Whitesburg City Council by the Downtown Merchants Association. Tyler Ward, owner and operator of the Thirsty Heifer, approached the council. He was accompanied to the meeting by Joel Beverly, owner of Summit City Lounge, and Colin Fultz, who owns the recently opened Kentucky Mist Moonshine Distillery.
Ward asked the council for permission to close the streets on Saturday, October 24, from around 3 to 4 p.m. through midnight for the festival. The Thirsty Heifer, Summit City, the StreetSide Grill and Bar, Kentucky Mist and other downtown businesses will set up tents and serve beer, soft drinks, and moonshine products from the distillery. There will be tents for drinks and food, including bratwurst, and Ward said that one stage will be set up for music as well.
Appalshop has volunteered to loan the festival its sound system, and West 6th Brewery of Lexington has volunteered to donate $300 to the festival and another $300 to Letcher County Cares. Ward said that West 6th will also donate cups for the event. Drinks will be in plastic cups and the Mountain Heritage Committee has volunteered the use of its picnic tables.
Whitesburg Mayor James Wiley Craft told Ward that he approved of the idea but had several questions. Craft asked if food would be prepared locally and if adequate precautions will be taken to ensure that no one becomes intoxicated or that alcohol is not sold to underage individuals. Ward told the mayor that the festival servers will be staff from each establishment in the city that serves alcohol and they have all been trained to detect the signs of intoxication. He further suggested that the Whitesburg Police Department might want to check IDs and issue a wristband to identify people as being of age, for those who wish to purchase alcoholic beverages. Ward added that all servers are already aware that it is against Kentucky law to serve alcohol to an intoxicated individual.
Police Chief Tyrone Fields asked if the festival would interfere with other businesses and Ward said he has checked with all the businesses in town, and it will not. Those businesses that don’t serve food and alcohol will be closed before the festival begins. He also told the council the back street that runs behind the old post office building will still be open as will Webb Avenue, which runs down by the courthouse.
Council member Robin Bowen-Watco asked Ward if soft drinks will be sold as well and he assured her that they will. Mayor Craft said the initial Oktoberfest will be a learning experience for the city and the merchants involved and that if everything goes well, he sees no reason that it cannot become an annual event. Ward added that he sees it falling into the city’s vision of becoming a destination city.
Oktoberfest is an annual event that originated in Munich, Germany to celebrate the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princes Therese. Oktoberfest, which coincides with harvest festivals all over Europe and the rest of the world, traditionally lasted for 16 days, until the reunification of Germany in 1990, when it was modified to last up to 17 days, culminating on October 3, German Reunification Day.
In other business, Mayor Craft reminded the council that it had voted to dispose of the old Salyer building at its June meeting and said that if that was the council’s will, it is now time to officially declare the property as surplus and advertise it for sale. Craft said he wanted to be sure that one caveat is placed in the bid, that being that the exterior of the building, which is a historic structure, be left intact and mostly in its original structure. He added that the inside is pretty much gone anyway. The council voted unanimously to accept sealed bids for the property to be opened at 2 p.m. on October 30. Craft said the bidding will be advertised in the next two editions of The Mountain Eagle.
Mayor Craft announced that the city will hold a Halloween Safe Night on October 31 in front of City Hall. The event will last from 5 through 8 p.m. and in the event of rain, it will move into the Letcher County Courthouse. Craft invited businesses, office seekers, and others wishing to provide candy to come down and set up a table.