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Vendors at Oktoberfest Urge Greater Promotion But Still Plan to Return

At least one booth operator bemoaned move away from traditional crafts at The Village event.

Advertise more.  Offer more arts and crafts. Provide more security. Help us find parking.

Those were some of the suggestions offered by a sampling of vendors among the 300 who set up shop in The Village for last weekend’s Oktoberfest.

About a dozen booth operators interviewed Saturday night said they were generally happy with the event—with all saying they plan to return next year.

Nancy Turk of Rancho Penasquitos, operating Country Neighbor Crafts, said business was good—even better than last year. But she said: “There used to be a lot of crafts,” and the balance has tipped toward commercial and manufactured goods.

“I’ve got a lot of complaints from customers” about the lack of handmade goods, said Turk, 58.

Sponsored by the La Mesa Village Merchants Association, the 38th annual Oktoberfest stretching up and down La Mesa Boulevard and some side streets attracted tens of thousands in its three-day run ending Sunday. No exact count is available.

But the crowds were a boon to booth operators, including Deanne Fingerman of San Carlos, who said Oktoberfest was better than the Del Mar Fair for her Scentsy perfume and candle products.

“People here are really willing to shop,” said Fingerman, 38. “It’s the same people year after year … almost seems like family.”

But she was among several who urged more promotion of La Mesa’s Oktoberfest.

“I saw very little advertising,” Fingerman said. “I never saw it in the Union-Tribune. I didn’t hear about it on radio or television. We have a lot of events to compete with.”

Agreeing was Marie Elmquist of La Mesa, who runs the Mail & Misc shop on Baltimore Drive with her husband, Dean.

“I was looking for more announcements on the news,” she said, like that accorded the Miramara Air Show.

The Elmquists said their booth was “a bit slower than last year” as of late Saturday night. “But you can’t complain in this economy. People are making less money and resetting their priorities.”

The good will fostered by their booth could boost their regular business, however, Dean Elmquist said.

Deborah Blackwell, 43, of La Mesa—selling T-shirts by a Normal Heights graphic artist—said her Urban Octopus had better sales this year. But she too would like to see more advertising about Oktoberfest—“anything and everything—media, newspapers, word-of-mouth, television.”

Hava Ilan, in her 60s, sold Tupperware at Oktoberfest for the eighth year and had two explanations for why her booth has done worse this year than last: the economy and the fact Oktoberfest featured two Tupperware vendors.

She also didn’t like the fact that Friday was the Jewish new year holiday Rosh Hashana, which could have depressed turnout.

Amadu Majway, 47, of Los Angeles said his Chezamy booth selling Rastafarian souvenirs did “way better” last year.

And Rick Patel, 36, of Moreno Valley said his N-S-Style booth selling custom-made belts, ceramic tiles and sunglasses was “a little bit slower than last year.”

But he was one of several vendors singling out event coordinator Richard Felix for praise, saying: “Mr. Richard always does his best.”

Still, Patel said Oktoberfest organizers should “make sure you provide the right amount of security,” with guards staying at stations. While being interviewed, he stood with his “princess”—10-year-old daughter Bryanka.

Tom Perry, 68, of the high desert town of Apple Valley sold wooden children’s puzzles and praised Felix for helping him move his vehicle into The Village on Thursday, since his car opens up into a storefront. 

“He takes the time to take care of people,” Perry said of Felix, while acknowledging that last year, his first at Oktoberfest, was better for sales.

Danny Kumar, 31, of Corona, who operated the Raja Fashions booth, said this was his first year since about 2007 at Oktoberfest but would like to see organizers help more with accessible parking.

“We have to roll everything in,” Kumar said. “That’s very tough. … Some of the stuff I’ve already sold out, and I can’t go get it. It’s parked four blocks down.”

At least one vendor was unhappy with visitor demographics.

Frank Arambula, 40, of National City staffed his Advanced Exteriors and Rhino Shield booth, not far from the La Mesa store on University Avenue, and said he’d gotten business at Oktoberfest.

But, he said: “It’s very hard to sell exterior coatings, especially to kids.  A lot of kids here.”

Craig Maxwell October 05, 2011 at 01:27 AM
More traditional crafts would be nice. So would more traditional manners, attire and language. Rarely have I seen such a conglomeration loud, foul-mouthed, shabbily dressed quasi-humanoids gathered in one place. Having grown-up in this area, I've been attending the Oktoberfest for a long time. I remember when the event was evenly intermingled with young "rowdies" and those who've subsequently been labeled the "Greatest Generation." Older folks--couples usually--walking arm-in-arm, the men wearing slacks, leather shoes, and button-up shirts; the women in dresses, or pants and blouses. You saw them talking with each other, and often meeting with others of their age-group. Noise, ostentatious behavior/clothing, verbal vulgarities--these weren't things they did, or would've dreamed of doing. They were, without trying, or even thinking about it, better than that. And now they are gone, and gone with them is a priceless piece of our civilization. I miss them, and wish that I could bring them back.
Selina Forte October 05, 2011 at 03:38 PM
I would like to see more traditional crafts. It looks like every other street fair in San Diego right now - only way more crowded.
Michelle October 05, 2011 at 04:55 PM
Craig, thanks for telling it as it is. I agree 100%. If only you had become our mayor maybe our city would not have deteriorated to the level it is at now.
dragonslayer October 05, 2011 at 05:29 PM
Let them eat cake. They said the same thing about your generation.
JoAnn Cando October 05, 2011 at 06:42 PM
I'll have to agree with you on this one Craig...Our family has been going for many years. Why does it need to be so big? To me the emphasis is more on Frat Party than family oriented activities. Why not promote La Mesa Arts and Crafts as it was years ago... I don't go to the Octoberfest to look for a Solartube for my house or even Tupperware. It's too commercialized. It's lost a lot of it's charm since it's emphasis has changed from the community here in La Mesa to vendors outside our city.... I love the "Christmas in the City" as it's not as big and totally focused on the family and feeling the holiday spirit here in our beautiful La Mesa...
Charles Anacker October 05, 2011 at 07:27 PM
Are Traditional Arts and Crafts vendors excluded or does their merchandise not sell? As much as many of us love crafts, if we don't support them by actually purchasing them, the vendors can't afford to show up just to give us a free art show. I used to live in Hermosa Beach which has an annual Festival with lots of exquisite crafts along with everything else. Just north, Manhattan Beach had a similar festival but with a poor showing of quality arts and crafts. The craftspeople gravitated to the show that rewarded them the most. Many of the craftspeople that I have met depend upon successful sales at one or two great shows to carry them through the years and they can't afford to sit in a booth without a worthwhile return.
Elizabeth Rufener October 05, 2011 at 10:40 PM
How about using the banners on the street poles to help advertise the event? They could go up after Labor Day and be up for about a month to help spread the word and add to the pride of our village. I would also like to add one more day to the event, Thursday, to help with the crowds - more people could come, but any one day may be less congested and more congenial!
Deena While October 05, 2011 at 10:53 PM
Event promoters are listening to the community. This year Arts and Craft booths were offered at a discounted rate to help get it established, but didn't attract enough to have an arts and crafts section. But will continue in the goal of having more Arts and Crafts.
Deena While October 05, 2011 at 10:54 PM
Oktoberfest banners were up at the end of car show in August. Closing the streets down longer? Hmm...don't know if that will fly, but will bring it to the committee. Thanks for ideas!
Craig Maxwell October 06, 2011 at 01:09 AM
Thanks, Michelle.
Charles Anacker October 06, 2011 at 01:13 AM
A weekend event, like Octoberfest, that starts on Thursday? Who is going to come. People come to such events on Friday so they can enjoy themselves and not have to worry about work or school the next day. This would also be unfair to the merchants and their customers who would be inconvenienced by closing the street on an extra day that would seem to be so unproductive for the festival. Those few that might come on Thursday would not have to worry about crowds, but the exhibitors would have to worry if it would be worth their time to exhibit to such a small turn out.
Honey Gitlin October 09, 2011 at 03:44 AM
I was looking forward the the Oktoberfest. Boy was I disappointed. It was more like going to a flea market or swap meet. The vendors, for the most part bought everything in China etc. and then tried to sell them to the public. Knock-off purses, Hawaiian jewelry, African types of leather, plastic toy cars etc. Even the vendors were foreigners and looked tacky. My suggestion would be to "jury" your exhibitors and get back the quality home made crafts that we used to see. Second comment. I was very dismayed to see the trolly "ambassadors" allowing adults and children to cross the tracks while the red lights were flashing, and the gates were closed. What message are you sending to the community, "It's fine to go under or around the tracks while the gates are down and lights are flashing?" Did anyone remember that a man was just killed in El Cajon! Honey, a disappointed La Mesa resident.
Charles Anacker October 09, 2011 at 05:00 AM
Perhaps a special section for crafts that was promoted as a "juried show" the idea would be to not exclude people, but to attract craft buyers and true craft creators to s specific are and advertise this, which might bring more craftspeople and more crafts buyers to a quality show case on a prime area and let the other vendors who have come sell their goods too, but not dilute the fine arts crafts, but keep the juried crafts in special location. The addition promotion would help the entire Octoberfest and bring back a special quality that it was once known for.

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