By Ted AYALA
Not even high humidity and temperatures inching their way towards triple digits could keep the throngs of people from across the region from visiting the Montrose Oktoberfest on Saturday. Locals and visitors alike crowded Honolulu Avenue and its side streets in search of food, fun, and, of course, beer.
“Everywhere else, summer ends with Labor Day,” said local resident Vakhtang Musayelian. “But here, Oktoberfest is our kiss goodbye to summer. What a way to go.”
According to the Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce (MVCC), which founded and organizes the event, attendance exceeded 30,000 people.
“We estimate about 35,000 people came through Montrose that day,” said chamber president Scott Trulik. “Most of them showed up after 6 p.m. After that, it was almost impossible to get through the streets. You literally had to squeeze your way through. I had never seen it like that.”
Among those thousands who came to visit were Glendale mayor Laura Friedman and Assemblyman Mike Gatto, who contributed $500 to the chamber’s Oktoberfest fund.
“That came as a total surprise to us,” said Melinda Clarke, the chamber’s executive director. “He just came up on stage and told us how he wanted to contribute in any way. That was definitely exciting.”
Friedman, who arrived in mid-afternoon to address the Oktoberfest crowds, commented on the much needed economic boost that the event brings to the area.
“I think it’s important to continue supporting and fostering these types of events,” said the mayor. “It’s not just about spending money, but about supporting our community. Seeing all these people out here today and enjoying themselves is something we can all take pride in.”
Though attracting thousands of people, visitors were generally well behaved. There were four alcohol-related arrests including a juvenile.
“[The juvenile] couldn’t take care of herself,” said Lt. Ian Grimes, Glendale Police. “She couldn’t care for herself. She did indicate that she did obtain the alcohol elsewhere. It was hard liquor.” Hard liquor was not sold by Oktoberfest booths.
“We’re very careful and stringent about serving only adults,” said Trulik. “Our staff and volunteers are well drilled and know never to give out any drinks without a show or proper identification.”
Though visitors were greeted with some old favorites, a few new tweaks on Oktoberfest also were implemented this year.
“Rocktoberfest … well … rocked,” said Trulik. “It’s just the kind of draw we needed to get younger audiences more engaged in the event.”
Featuring local musical acts on a new third stage, Rocktoberfest ¬– which was spearheaded by Glendale police officer and MVCC director Joe Allen – proved to be a favorite of visitors and promised to be a mainstay of the festival for years to come.
“This was kind of a transitional phase in Oktoberfest’s history,” added the MVCC president. “We have a new office staff who cut their teeth on this year’s event. Now that they’re familiar with how it works, we can start taking this in a new direction. I think we’re going to have a lot of exciting surprises for Oktoberfest lovers in the future.”
Robert Beckmann, who came visiting from nearby Sun Valley was impressed with the changes he saw.
“I think it’s a good thing to give the young people a place where they can be a part of this, too,” he said. “Us old folks can get a bit set in or ways. But sometimes, the best way to keep a tradition alive is by making it new again.”
Check out our Oktoberfest Gallery for more pics!