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Like the Christmas parade, love Oktoberfest
If you like the Christmas parade, you should love Oktoberfest!

 Fairuz Maggio pays for her beer stein when she enters Oktoberfest on Caroline Street. Oktoberfest is an annual event sponsored by Capital Ale House. It draws thousands of people to downtown Fredericksburg.
MARIE SICOLA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 12/12/2012

THE Fredericksburg Christmas parade is quite a spectacle. It's an event I look forward to every year.

My band, Elby Brass, has marched in it the past four years, in three of which we have been awarded first place in the band division.

With only a handful of scrappy volunteers, the Jaycees tackle what can be described only as a logistical nightmare involving more than 100 organizations, thousands of participants and spectators, and street closures of practically every major road downtown. For that, they have my humble admiration as a fellow event coordinator.

I mention all of this to demonstrate my unflagging support for the parade and to provide the proper context for my main point: If you don't like Oktoberfest, you should hate the Christmas parade.

Quite a lot has been said about what to do with Capital Ale House's September celebration, but the fact is that every substantial argument against Oktoberfest applies doubly to the Christmas parade.

Oktoberfest takes extreme measures to ensure that sidewalks remain accessible to non-attendee pedestrian traffic. Good luck with that during the Christmas Parade. Everyone knows you can't get anywhere downtown for about six hours that night. That's why stores close early: The owners know that most of the folks who come for the parade don't want to come in their shops and the ones who do just want to use the bathroom.

By the way, did you notice that there aren't any public toilets at the parade? Oktoberfest is required to provide dozens of portable toilets for their attendees, but parents at the Christmas parade have to resort to letting their kids go behind inconspicuous shrubbery.

And what a mess the parade makes! They had to ban handouts entirely because the storm drains would get clogged with candy and fliers that people were throwing from their parade floats.

Caution tape and orange fencing are commonly used to discourage overeager attendees from causing property damage in their quest to find that perfect viewing spot. I've seen more trampled gardens, leaning fences, and broken windows after one year of the Christmas parade than in all of the years of Oktoberfest combined.

All of this chaos happens the first Saturday in December, thereby ensuring that one whole day of the holiday shopping season is effectively ruined for downtown businesses.

These problems are standard fare for any large event, but no one would suggest canceling the parade because of them. That's why all of the venom over Oktoberfest seems so out of place to me.

I'm of the mind that these events are reasons to want to live in Fredericksburg. They give character to our city and allow us to celebrate our community. As with any logistical situation, there are problems to address and guidelines to establish, but you can't have it both ways. If you want things like the Christmas Parade, then you should also support Oktoberfest.

Seth Casana is chairman of the Fredericksburg Arts Commission.