La Mesa's 2013 Oktoberfest will remain a one-weekend event, but organizers want to eliminate carnival rides and stink bombs, according to statements made at last week’s La Mesa City Council meeting.
The Oktoberfest, sponsored by the La Mesa Village Merchants Association and the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce, is usually held the first full weekend in October. During the February 12 council meeting, association president Arlene Moore (and other people) referred to teenagers crowding the carnival area at night.
After the 2012 Oktoberfest, police chief Ed Aceves asked organizers to meet with city representatives to discuss security and safety issues. In a memo to the council, Aceves said issues included those caused by carnival rides, "the lack of ability to control the crowds," and the fire department's desire for emergency access to La Mesa Boulevard.
In a February 13 interview, police spokesman Lt. Matt Nicholass said that for several years "a large number of teenagers" congregated around the Oktoberfest event. Nicholass didn't know if there were specific calls for police related to this trend in 2012.
According to Aceves’s memo, city and organization representatives met four times and developed three scenarios for 2013 that included cost estimates for police, fire, and public works. La Mesa has a full-cost recovery policy, and Aceves told the council that Oktoberfest 2012 cost close to $77,000.
Scenario 1 divided Oktoberfest into two weekends. The chamber-sponsored beer garden would tentatively be held at the end of September in the Allison Avenue public parking lot. The event held Friday and Saturday would cost the chamber approximately $13,000. The following weekend, the association would stage a street fair with vendor booths on La Mesa Boulevard east of Spring Street. Estimated cost was $25,200 for the event held Friday through Sunday.
Scenario 2 involved one weekend, with the Allison Avenue beer garden and the street fair on La Mesa Boulevard east of Spring Street. There would be no beer garden on Sunday; the street fair would last three days. The estimated cost was $45,700.
Scenario 3 was similar to the current three-day-long arrangement, but the carnival would be eliminated. The large beer garden on Allison and a smaller one on Nebo Drive would be open Friday and Saturday. The three-day street fair would be held on La Mesa Boulevard on both sides of Spring. The estimated cost was $77,000.
Chamber president Mary England said her organization was comfortable with scenario 2 or 3. Merchants association president Moore said the association supported scenario 3 because it was "unfair" to merchants to hold the street fair on only one side of Spring Street. She said that another issue was the sale of stink bombs by a store owner. "They are a huge problem in stores and on the streets," Moore said.
Aceves said a lieutenant would ask the store owner to "voluntarily comply" with a request to stop selling stink bombs during Oktoberfest. If that wasn't successful, Aceves said he would look into whether local jurisdictions had codes to prohibit sales during special events. The police chief offered another option: merchants could buy out all of the stink bombs on "day one" of Oktoberfest.