By Ted AYALA
One often hears Montrose’s small town atmosphere touted by both residents and visitors alike. It isn’t uncommon for people to refer to the area as a real-life counterpart to the fictional Mayberry of Andy Griffith fame. Cynics might think the notion an improbable one given the area’s location – on the periphery of one of the largest financial/cultural nodal points on the planet. Some may propose that Montrose’s ambiance is a top-down, manufactured image dreamed up by business interests and city officials to boost interest.
But take a casual drive through Honolulu Avenue on any day and those notions are quickly dispelled. Or better yet, take a casual walk through the same thoroughfare on the first Saturday of October. Case in point: Oktoberfest 2013.
There was no mistaking the more ambitious feeling of this year’s Oktoberfest, now sprawling from the 2200 through the 2400 blocks of Honolulu along a trail marked by merry-making and that distinctly tangy sauerkraut scent. Yet there is, as ever, that feeling that the event – the largest such event in Glendale – is not just an attraction for people from across the region, but a day when Montrose residents gather in the kind of communal spirit that experts say is vanishing from America. Not that you’d ever guess that from looking at Oktoberfest.
“We get the same people coming every year, it’s like a tradition,” said Henry Baeza, owner of Montrose Cafe & Bakery. “They love it. They get to have fun.”
It’s a tradition in which Baeza has played a crucial role over many years; the Montrose Cafe & Bakery provides the brownies and strudel that have become the event’s signature sweets.
“It’s been busy,” he said as he rolled out another cart of strudel to waiting concession stands. “It looks like this Oktoberfest is going to be good. Lot of people out.”
Melinda Clarke, executive director for the Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce (MVCCC), which organizes the event, confirmed that the 36th Oktoberfest was its most successful yet.
“We’ve cranked up revenue 3% from last year,” she said. “Since 2010 Oktoberfest revenues have increased by over $70,000.”
Official estimates for crowds were still forthcoming, but Clarke estimated that turnout hovered around 25,000 for the duration of the event.
“We’ve continued to capitalize on our family-friendly zone. We’ve also been giving people a lot more to do in the evening by offering them more diverse music and entertainment to enjoy. At one point, we had over 800 people at the stage in the 2400 block,” she said.
Oktoberfest also enjoyed some new partnerships, most notably with the Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition (recently rechristened CV Alliance), which designed and set up signs throughout the event designating alcohol-free zones and reminding revelers to drink responsibly.
Drink responsibly they did, according to an unofficial Glendale Police Dept. source close to the situation. No incidents of drunkenness or rowdiness were reported.