Food & Dining
Crowd taps into beer-tasting event
by Bradley Hartsell
In just four short years, Main Street Newnan’s Oktoberfest boutique beer-tasting event has emerged from humble beginnings to its first sold-out campaign.
Twenty-seven downtown businesses propped open their doors Friday to let in beer-tasting fans from across the county. Organized annually by Main Street Newnan, the celebration serves as a growing community event and business exposure opportunity.
City of Newnan Business Development Director Hasco Craver cited great weather, increased visibility and strong participation from local businesses as reasons for Oktoberfest’s first sell-out in its short history. Craver said the event sold 270 tickets online before selling the final 30 tickets the day of the event.
There were a few business owners who participated in the event who felt traffic was down this year, but others reported complaints from people who were turned away from the event because tickets were sold out.
Ted Casey of Ken’s Bargain Outlet said his store saw noticeable drops in foot traffic from a year ago. Ken’s, in particular, based on last year’s figures, stocked to serve 400 patrons but reported only about 150, resulting in a lot of leftover beer. LaGrange Grocery sponsored the event and gave each vendor two cases of beer. Places like Let Them Eat Toffee didn’t need to exceed the two cases, but Ken’s bought extra beer in anticipation of the event.
“It seemed like there were a little less people this year,” said Carol Glover of Grannie Fannie’s.
Though business owners found the capping of tickets curious, Craver said it’s “simple mathematics” that Oktoberfest sold more tickets than a year ago. Several business owners and Craver agreed a miscommunication must have taken place. In Craver’s mind, there was never a question of Main Street going over its cap. Main Street and its vendors had prepared to serve around 300 people. If they had sold even 25 more tickets, they ran the risk of being out of beer at any given location, something Craver obviously didn’t want.
“I can’t in good conscience sell you a ticket knowing places are running out of beer,” said Craver. “That does Oktoberfest more harm in the long run than having to turn away people because they planned late.”
Despite the perceived differences, business owners and patrons alike who commented after Friday’s event said it was a success. Newnan isn’t exactly known for late evening crowds, but people participated in the festivities past the designated 9 p.m. stop time. Casey said Ken’s didn’t wrap up until shortly before 10 p.m.
Glover said Grannie Fannie’s is traditionally a late night hot-spot during Oktoberfest. “The party always ends with us. We always have a keg and homemade cheese straws. We have a bench outside where people like to gather and hang out,” Glover said.
Kerry Graham, owner of Let Them Eat Toffee, remarked how the crowd at Oktoberfest has grown more sophisticated, coinciding with increased sales. What used to be a younger, rowdier event has evolved into a good date night, an enjoyable tour around downtown and a chance to taste interesting beers.
Craver mentioned Main Street will look into increasing the threshold for tickets sold for future Oktoberfest events. “Believe me, I would have loved to have sold more tickets… it’s a great opportunity for businesses to gain exposure,” Craver said. Despite the questions, business owners indicated they would participate again next year and will continue participating, happily, in other events organized by Main Street, such as Taste of Newnan.
It’s the kind of exposure that makes Oktoberfest a winning proposition for Newnan.