Two of Gaithersburg's annual, staple events may undergo drastic changes, according to a presentation made by city Arts & Events Division Chief Denise Kayser to the Gaithersburg mayor and City Council Tuesday night.
Kayser said the city should consider scrapping the Kentlands Oktoberfest in favor of a summer arts festival in the neighborhood and change the Celebrate Gaithersburg in Olde Towne festival to a fall-themed festival in October.
Oktoberfest has outgrown its venue and outpaced the city's partner's resources, according to the presentation.
"The two most common comments we've received from Oktoberfest attendees is that it's too crowded and there's not that much to do," Kayser said, while later adding that "an arts festival would expand exposure to the [Kentlands] business district and support the arts and entertainment district."
The arts festival would focus on food from local restaurants and vendors, crafts, live art shows and kid/family friendly activities, Kayser said.
Changes to the Celebrate Gaithersburg in Olde Towne festival aim to make it more theme-driven, highlighting traditional fall activities and crafts, Kayser said. Shifting the festival to a Saturday in October would move it away from the Jewish holidays and avoid Sunday football conflicts, she said.
The fall festival will focus on harvest foods (including candied apples, apple pressing, cider, roasted nuts, honey, funnel cakes, preserves, kettle corn), pumpkins (patches, carvings, sculptures), kids activities, a beer garden and possibly a car show, according to the presentation.
Mayor Sidney A. Katz and the City Council were open to the ideas for change, but were not in a rush.
"I think there's many good ideas here...I think that we need to involve the communities, the neighborhoods that are directly involved in this and get them involved [in conversations] as quickly as possible," Katz said.
The mayor's biggest concerns were moving a Kentlands festival so close to Kentlands Day and shifting the fall festival to Saturdays, he said.
Many businesses in Olde Towne are open on Saturdays and need their parking lots, Katz said. "You're asking them to give up a day of business, I think that's a very large concern."
Council Vice President Michael A. Sesma said Kayser's concerns with Oktoberfest were "right on target" but remained skeptical about changes to the timing of the city's events.
"I'm worried a little bit about some of the calendar issues," Sesma said. "If you include Kentlands day in here, Kentlands Day, Gaithersburg Book Festival, possibly our June festival and Memorial Day [fall within a two month period], it doesnt matter which part of the calendar we look at, we're going to be faced with some issues."
Kayser said she hopes the proposed changes could be put in place as soon as this year, but understands the timing needs to be right. Councilmember Cathy Drzyzgula said anytime within the next five years would be appropriate.
Check out Kayser's full presentation on the city of Gaithersburg website for more info on changes to Oktoberfest, Celebrate Gaithersburg in Olde Towne, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Gaithersburg Book Festival celebrations.
SPEAK OUT: Would you like to see Gaithersburg make significant changes to city events such as the Kentlands Oktoberfest and Celebrate Gaithersburg in Olde Towne Festival? What do you think of the proposed changes? Tell us in the comments!