Boisterous but Well-Behaved Crowd Packs The Village for Oktoberfest

First night includes no more than three arrests for public inebriation as thousands visit dozens of vendors and quaff copious amount of beer at assorted gardens.

Thousands of people made the annual pilgrimage to The Village for the start of Oktoberfest, with people arriving Friday by planes (from the East Coast), trains (via increased trolley service) and automobiles (with parking at a premium).

Scores of food, service and product vendors greeted crowds for the 38th annual event sponsored by the La Mesa Village Merchants Association. But fewer booths were set up this year than in 2010, according to one local merchant—with no booths on 4th Street this year. Just portable potties.

Warm humid air under mostly sunny skies made beverage sales hot in the afternoon, while the beer gardens and La Mesa Boulevard restaurants and bars hosted jovial crowds in a night that turned breezy and comfortable.

Just before midnight, La Mesa police had reported no more than three arrests for public drunkenness. A posse of officers made the rounds as a show of force when necessary—such as a 10 p.m. stand-and-stare near a clump of young men in the strip mall parking lot across from Sanfilippo’s Pizza.

With police Lt. Matt Nicholass overseeing the Oktoberfest command post on Palm Avenue and Sgt. Bret Richards acting as watch commander for the rest of the city, all bases were covered.

The La Mesa Fire Department had several medical aid calls, said one firefighter, but nothing serious. One youth suffered a sprain going down an inflatable slide in the Subway shopping area.

With the 2,000-occupancy La Mesa Chamber of Commerce beer garden on Allison Avenue closing at 11 p.m., many revelers simply moved west up La Mesa Boulevard to Joltin’ Joes in the La Mesa Springs shopping center, where an overflow crowd kept business buzzing past midnight.

Richards said the La Mesa Police Department assigned 25 people—including 19 sworn personnel and two dispatchers—to handle Oktoberfest.  A normal shift of six officers and a sergeant patrolled the rest of the city, he said.

Seven Explorer Scouts from Chula Vista and five from El Cajon helped direct traffic.

Families were entertained by street performers including the drumming Bucket Brothers (a three-member unit that included one former student and two teachers from Grossmont High School’s Royal Blue Regiment marching band).

Elsewhere, a magician escaped from chains. Guitarists serenaded strollers. A statue-and-mechanical-movement Silver Man accepted donations from passers-by near Sanfilippo’s.

Councilmen Ernie Ewin and Mark Arapostathis and sponsors including beer-provider Karl Strauss were introduced at the opening ceremonies in the Allison Avenue beer garden, with chamber CEO Mary England and beermeister of ceremonies Jack Leary of El Cajon reprised their usual roles.

Miss La Mesa Katie Martin—fresh from learning that she had been chosen for San Diego State University’s Homecoming Court—welcomed visitors with a wish of fun and safety.  Martin, an SDSU senior, will learn Oct. 8 whether she is Homecoming Queen.

Oktoberfest continues from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday and concludes Sunday, when hours are noon to 5 p.m.

Bands performing on the main stage at the Allison Avenue beer garden are: Bavarian Beer Garden Band from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Car Tune Dogs from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, and Harmonica John Frazer of the Blues Wailers from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday.

And the chicken dance will be repeated throughout.

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