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June 8, 2011 / Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce

Chamber Views: Oktoberfest will be the best of time, the time of wursts

By William F. Millerick

President, New Britain Chamber of Commerce

Article appeared in the New Britain Herald on Sunday, May 29th.

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The seed was planted more than a year ago, amidst a throng of people partying on the brand new outdoor, upstairs deck at Nick Augustino’s iconic East Side Restaurant in New Britain.

It was a New Britain Chamber of Commerce reception to christen the restaurant’s expansion. Augustino talked — or more accurately talked a mile a minute about his idea to do an Oktoberfest — a real Oktoberfest — in New Britain.

If you know Nick at all, you know he is a man of big plans, big vision and a track record of making it happen. He did not want a one-day Oktoberfest at his restaurant. He wanted to take over downtown New Britain on a beautiful fall weekend, bring in Oompa Bands, rides, games, of course a beer garden, lots of German food and in the process, bring thousands of people downtown.

Was the Chamber in? You don’t need to ask twice.

As spring arrived, his plan has sprung, fully formed.

Don’t make any plans to leave town Sept. 16-18.

If you do, you’ll miss the first Connecticut Oktoberfest, a non-stop weekend of food, music, games, lots of laughs, maybe a little education tossed in and, above all, a full city-wide outdoor festival.

People have missed a citywide outdoor festival since the old Main Street USA ran out its natural course.

New Britain during the warm weather months has a full schedule of outdoor festivals but they are unique to individual churches or social clubs. This past weekend was the great Greek Festival on West Main Street. There are Italian festivals and a Puerto Rican festival. In a city of more than 50 different ethnic backgrounds, there are a few things every weekend.

But there hasn’t been one single, community-wide festival and that’s what the Oktoberfest is all about.

I’ve always believed that for something this big and this grand, you need an entrepreneur, not a committee. Someone like Augustino has the vision and energy to start the ball rolling and keep it rolling.

One person can’t do it alone, of course, so you enlist partners like the Chamber of Commerce and others.

Pretty quickly the New Britain Downtown District organization was one of those key partners and so too was the New Britain Lions Club, which could help provide the volunteer manpower.

Of course the city and Mayor Timothy Stewart’s office were shoulder to shoulder with the Oktoberfest. And that’s important, because along with necessary city services, a lot of logistical planning has to be done to make sure emergency access through the downtown is maintained while roads are closed.

Not surprisingly, the Police and Fire departments, as well as public works, EMS and Parks and Recreation are all involved under the mayor’s enthusiastic leadership.

Central Park will become a sprawling German restaurant and beer garden. A stage there will have ongoing entertainment.

A little further down Main Street, in front of TD Bank and Vito’s, an area of games and entertainment for children will be located.

At the intersection of Main and Chestnut will be another main stage with entertainment, and something unique to the Oktoberfest.

On Friday, the opening day, when throngs of people first clamber into downtown to see and sample, we’ll have an Alfresco Business Expo.

Working with Augustino and his staff, we’ve developed a minimum of 50 covered exhibitors’ booths that we are making available to Chamber members at a discounted rate to exhibit, display or introduce themselves, their products and service to the public.

We’ve already had interest from banks, printers, office supply companies and others who see a unique, high-energy opportunity for a Business Expo. It is our goal at the Chamber to help introduce and promote our members to all of the people, from the city and outside New Britain.

The Business Expo will run from 10 a.m. to approximately 3 p.m. on Friday.

On Saturday and Sunday, the New Britain Arts Alliance will take over the display area and the city’s myriad arts and entertainment organizations will have their own arts expo while the Oktoberfest is continuing.

Rest assured, there is a whole lot more to be seen and experienced at the first annual Oktoberfest but there is only so much room on the page.

Further information on the event, sponsorship opportunities and the Chamber Business Expo is available at www.oktoberfest.com or the Chamber website, www.newbritainchamber.com. Or contact the Oktoberfest’s new downtown office at 160 Main St., second floor or by phone at 855-OKT-FEST.

There will be much, much more information in the days to come. One thing is already certain — Ticky Tocky Ticky Tocky will be heard more than a few times in downtown New Britain Sept. 16-18.

William F. Millerick is president of the New Britain Chamber. He may be reached at bill@newbritainchamber.com

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