• 75°

Good weather for Oktoberfest boosts local attendance

What a difference a year makes.

Oktoberfest weekend 2002: a sodden, dreary deluge with everyone forced to crowd into the fairgrounds exhibit hall.

Oktoberfest 2003: blue skies, sunshine – and smiles, smiles, smiles all around.

Nancy Idland, executive director of Greenville Main Street, organizer of the annual fall festival, was ‘over the moon’ on Monday afternoon. She commented on what she felt could only be termed the latest smashing success in the Camellia City.

&uot;We’ve now experienced the best Oktoberfest we’ve ever had,&uot; she said. &uot;I really feel it can only get bigger and better from now on.&uot;

Idland noted this year’s festival &uot;had more visitors and more vendors than ever before&uot;.

Everyone, it seemed, went home a happy camper.

&uot;I’ve only gotten positive comments back from everybody,&uot; she said. &uot;The vendors made sales and got great ‘PR’ out of it, and everyone who came seemed to have a really great time.&uot;

Original paintings by local artists, collectibles, crafts, Christmas ornaments, home dcor items, jewelry, fresh produce, flowers, children’s clothing, women’s accessories and plenty of tasty food were among the offerings found for sale this year at Oktoberfest.

WGYV owner Robert Williamson proved a fine emcee for the event, giving entertainment schedule updates throughout the day. He also provided welcome plugs for the merchants, crafters, clubs and organizations participating in Oktoberfest.

Kids ruled at the ‘Fest

Ricky Cargile, who volunteered to help set up the tent for the Imagine That! duo on Saturday morning, said he certainly enjoyed Greenville’s fabulous fall day in Confederate Park.

&uot;And all those kids – well, they sure looked like they were having a blast with all the activities that were going on out there,&uot; he said.

And activities there were, by the bushel basketful. Face painting, nail painting, balloon art and seasonal crafts were all offered at no charge to youngsters.

Other youngsters decked themselves out in feather boas, jester hats and neon bright wigs for instant snapshots, receiving a colorful souvenir of their day to take home.

Barrett Leverette, browsing through the costume treasure trove, was having a hard time deciding on the best chapeau in which to strike a pose for the camera.

&uot;Ah, well, she is quite a ham,&uot; her father, Tommy Leverette, said.

Two favorite entertainers from past festivals, magician Gary Ledbetter and cowboy poet and rope trick artist Bruce Brannen, also brought smiles to many children’s faces on Saturday.

&uot;Wow, look at how still and quiet Buddy is…I can’t believe it,&uot; remarked Lea Fennell as she watched her wide-eyed toddler son pay rapt attention to Brannen’s performance.

The biggest draw for many (pun fully intended) was the caricature skills of cartoonist Bill Jackson. Long lines were a constant at his table throughout the day.

&uot;I don’t think that man took a single break all day long – he’s amazing,&uot; said Idland.

And who could resist the bevy of beautiful kittens and cuddly puppies available for adoption at Oktoberfest, courtesy of the Butler County Humane Society?

&uot;Oh, we’ve had a great, great day, we’ve adopted out a lot of animals. This is a magnet for the kids,&uot; smiled Kandys Killough, BCHS volunteer.

Something new for you

Kids and adults alike seemed to delight in the antics of a new addition to Oktoberfest, Mobile’s ‘Imagine That!’ This talented pair of old friends mingles their love of kids, art, theater and fun with a strong desire to keep Earth green and beautiful.

&uot;Those two ladies were really funny – and they sure had that tent fixed up great, didn’t they?&uot; remarked Cargile.

&uot;Straight man&uot;, kindergarten teacher Phyllis Clardy Wingard and friend Beverly Haney (artist, gardener and &uot;total hambone&uot;) gave a series of highly entertaining and informative performances inside their colorful rainforest tent. They won many new fans with their expert storytelling abilities, spirited kazoo parades and other lively antics.

&uot;It was so great to have Imagine That! this year…I’m hoping we can add something new and different to our festival each and every year,&uot; Idland said.

A number of local vendors also made their first Oktoberfest appearance on Saturday.

Vesta Taylor of Alissa’s Closet had a selection of her shop’s unique handbags on display.

&uot;This is a great way to get our name out to the public – and that’s just what I’m trying to do,&uot; Taylor said, whose shop has been open for just a few months.

Kathy Atchison and Rochelle Moseley, two best buddies who enjoy indulging their ‘crafty’ instincts, weren’t sure what to expect for their first festival, they said.

&uot;So we brought a little of this and little of that,&uot; said Atchison as she motioned toward their colorful array of crafts for sale.

&uot;There has really been a good crowd here today…it’s a little warm out here, but that’s OK, everyone seems to be having a good time,&uot; said Moseley.

A small town success

Idland is thrilled at the big success achieved with Oktoberfest this year.

&uot;Our AmeriCorps crafts volunteers were fantastic…we had great children’s crafts, great entertainment, wonderful vendors and a wonderful crowd,&uot; Idland said.

Even as she enjoys this year’s success, Idland is looking ahead to possible changes and additions to next year’s Oktoberfest.

&uot;I would love to see this festival expand,&uot; she said. &uot;Maybe we can look at blocking off a portion of Main Street in the future so we can add more vendors. This would also make it more safe for those crossing over to use City Hall’s restrooms.&uot;

Perhaps it was Eric Fennell, Oktoberfest soundman, Buddy’s daddy and Lea’s spouse, who said it best at the end of that fun-filled Saturday.

&uot;This is why we moved to Greenville – because of a day just like today.&uot;