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Friday, October 18, 2013

Octoberfest offers family fun for a great cause - By Elizabeth Richards


On Saturday, October 12th, the parking lot of Buck’s Naked BBQ in Windham was transformed into a lively fall festival offering not only family fun, but an opportunity to for several communities to come together and help others. 
 
Octoberfest was put on by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce as part of the Community Coin Challenge to benefit food pantries in all ten communities served by the chamber. Sheri Huff, organizer of the event, said 35 local businesses were involved, up from 31 last year. Donations were on track to raise as much or slightly more than last year’s $21,000. The final donation total was not available before press time. Proceeds will be distributed to the food pantries in November.

Huff conceived the idea for Octoberfest after the chamber discussed wanting to do something that involved all ten towns. Now in its second year, the event has grown slightly, and Huff said there are already things they want to add for next year, including coffee and hot chocolate, balloons, and having the high school mascots and cheerleading squads from the towns participate. Huff recruits businesses to participate and as word spreads, she said, people also call her. Huff said her ultimate goal is to have all the chambers in the state participate with a similar event all on the same day, and raise $1 million for food pantries statewide.
 
A steady stream of people wandered through the festival stopping to chat at the booths and participate in the variety of activities offered. Booths were well spaced and there were enough things to see and do that the event never felt too crowded, and nothing had a long wait time. Two bounce houses meant even those didn’t get too backed up, as they often do at this kind of event. Two shuttles from the parking lot at the Manchester School ensured that everyone could find a place to park and get to the festival without a long walk or a long wait. 

Smiling children moved from one activity to another, including face painting, bounce houses, temporary hair color and temporary tattoos, bobbing for apples, decorating pumpkins and a cupcake eating contest. Montgomery Road Band and deBreeze & Keys kept the crowd entertained with live music on a stage outside Buck’s. Horse drawn wagon rides made a loop through and behind the festival area. Booths offered soda and water, hot dogs and sausages, Subway sandwiches, apples, cotton candy, popcorn and more – all free of charge. Mason jars set out at each booth collected donations for the food pantries.

Becky Mathews, watching her daughter Emma having her face painted, said that the article in last week’s Windham Eagle brought them to the festival. She appreciated seeing what the community has to offer. “It’s good to know what’s around, who’s around and what everybody is doing,” she said.

Robin Mullins, office manager of Octagon Cleaning, was operating the pumpkin decorating booth. She attended Octoberfest last year because her daughter, a dancer, was performing. This year, she said, it was nice to help out as a business participant. She felt like there were more people in attendance this year, and participation at the booth was non-stop, she said. An event like Octoberfest helps bring awareness to the community around the needs of the food pantries said Mullins. “People don’t think about how much of a need the food pantry has,” she said, adding that the needs go beyond food to things like pet supplies, diapers and more. “It’s nice to have an opportunity to share and let people know. It really brings it to light,” she said. She also liked that the event went beyond Windham, highlighting the need in the surrounding areas as well.
Nicole Getchell, owner of Dancemakers, set up a play area with mats, hula hoops, and a chalk foursquare court. Octoberfest was her first Dancemakers’ event, she said, and she was having a lot of fun. “The opportunity to raise funds for local charity is always a good thing,” she said. “I’m glad to have something for kids to come in and have a little extra activity,” she added. Dancers from the studio put on a spirited performance for the crowd. 

Susan Brown, whose husband works for Bucks Naked BBQ, watched her children Hailey and Ian enjoy the hula hoops and mats towards the end of the festival. She said she tried to spread the word and get friends and family out to the event. “It’s a great event. I’m happy to be here, and happy to help the community,” she said.























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