Thursday, October 23, 2014

Third annual Octoberfest a tremendous success - By Elizabeth Richards

The Community Coin Challenge sponsored by the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce culminated with the third annual Octoberfest, held in the Buck’s Naked BBQ parking lot in Windham on Saturday, October 18th. This year’s event was the biggest yet with more vendors, more attendees, and more donations to support ten food pantries in the Lakes Region. 

All festival events were free, with donations accepted, to ensure that anyone in the region would be able to attend. Attendance at Octoberfest grew this year by 15 to 20 percent, said organizer Sheri Huff. There were 16 additional things to do as well, she said. The ultimate goal each year, said Huff, is to have the amount of donations collected rise. As of Saturday, the donations had reached over $17,000, and that was before counting donations received at Octoberfest. A final amount of funds raised was not available before press time.

Octoberfest offered a great range of events, including a pumpkin carving contest, costume contest, cupcake eating contest, children’s games, a mini vehicles parade by the Kora Shrine Log Rollers, chair massages, pumpkin decorating, crafts, bobbing for apples and a very popular dunk tank. There was a wide variety of food to be found, from hot dogs and sausage sandwiches, pizza and subway sandwiches to sweet treats like whoopie pies, caramel apples, cookies and cotton candy. A horse drawn wagon circled the parking lot and a trail out in back, and helicopter rides were offered for $35 per person. 

Children in costume darted excitedly from booth to booth with adults in tow, enjoying the games and two bounce houses and dancing along to the musical entertainment provided by Montgomery Road and deBreeze and Keys.

Sara Yates, from Windham, was enjoying the festival with her three children Riley, Morgan and Devon. “We’re happy to support the Lakes Region,” she said. “They do such a great job with the community coin drive.”

Jen Berry from Naples learned about the festival from her mother. Berry brought her son and a friend after their morning soccer game, and said they were having a great time. “It’s a great way to raise money and have the community come together,” she said.

Christine Stanford, president of the Community Resource Council in Naples was manning the Naples Food Pantry booth. She said the event is all about exposure and educating the community as to what resources exist. “It’s really wonderful to have everyone here together,” she said. And every penny raised counts, she added, stating that 16 cents buys a pound of food at the Good Shepherd Food Bank. “You don’t realize how many people you are helping out when you do this,” she said.
Teresa Springer, a cotton candy vendor at the event, said that the sense of community at the event was great, and is what the event is all about. There is a sense of need in the region that is almost palpable, she said, which is why an event like Octoberfest is so important. “Here, it doesn’t matter what green is in your wallet. It’s about a sense of community and being together,” she said.

Huff said the growth of the event has been great, and the support from the community – both businesses and people coming out to participate, has also been wonderful. She wanted to thank the businesses involved for all the support they give, from the coin challenge to setting up booths with free events, for such a good cause. 

Donations in 2012 and 2013 combined totaled $38,039.28. With this year’s tally already over $15,000 without including Octoberfest donations, the chamber’s goal of creating a larger, more successful event each year has been soundly met.

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