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Taps for Caroline St. (the happy kind!)
Bravo, Fredericksburg City Council, for preserving Oktoberfest

Date published: 10/3/2012

AN election season is a dangerous time for the general public. Candidates, grubbing for votes, can make ill-considered commitments to agitated interest blocs. Kudos to those Fredericksburg City Council members who, campaigning this summer, resisted calls to rout or ruin Saturday's splendid Oktoberfest.

The happy result of the council's facedown of opposition by some Caroline Street merchants was a crowd of 10,000 making merry with steins, wurst, and song on that street during the ebbs of September--and leaving with very good feelings about Our Town. Some previously perturbed merchants also were feeling happier because the city had steered more customers toward their stores. For example, several shopkeepers had objected that the Oktoberfest throng isolated their businesses from prospective patrons. The city largely fixed that by allowing pedestrian traffic across George Street where it crosses Caroline--a pathway blocked during the last three Oktoberfests.

Not that all was strudel. On Friday, notes City Manager Beverly Cameron, some vendors for event sponsor Capital Ale House offloaded supplies from big trucks double-parked along George Street, crimping access to Caroline stores. Also, not all of the pub's extra hands got the word about event-day satellite parking, so they filled downtown spaces intended for festivalgoers. "There were some communication issues," says Mr. Cameron, but he expects them to be ironed out come next fall.

A few Caroline Street merchants may be solemnly sworn to perpetual grumpiness over the once-a-year street party, but more are coming around. Further dialogue between them and the city should make for even better future Oktoberfests.

In any case, the event is a multifaceted boon to Fredericksburg. It gives the town exposure and adds shekels to the city treasury. It teaches a bit about the area's German heritage (Messrs. Washington, Jefferson, and Monroe notwithstanding, ethnic Limeys and Jocks aren't the whole story of our ancestral past.) And it gives a whole lot of people a chance to kick up their heels and forget their woes.

So, again, bravo to the City Council for standing its ground--in this case right in the middle of charming, stately, and (once every autumn) roisterous Caroline Street.