Chamber cancels Appleton’s Octoberfest due to lack of volunteers, vendors

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 12:09 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2021 at 11:11 PM CDT
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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - The Fox Cities Chamber has announced the cancellation of Appleton’s Octoberfest and License to Cruise for 2021.

The events were scheduled for Sept. 24 and Sept. 25.

The chamber listed the following reasons for the cancellation:

• Each year, nearly 1,000 volunteers play a critical role in being able to provide a family-friendly, safe, and enjoyable atmosphere for the more than 300,000 attendees who participate in Appleton’s Octoberfest and License to Cruise. This year, the events have failed to draw and maintain enough volunteers serving in key roles. It is not possible to host the events without these large numbers of volunteers.

• Eventgoers annually look forward to a delicious array of food provided by nearly 100 non-profit food vendors. This year, the event experienced a 50% decline in participation from food vendors, creating significant concerns about food availability at the event.

• Children under the age of 12 at this time are not eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Because these are intended to be family-friendly events, organizers want to ensure safe attendance is available to all participants as case numbers rise in the region.

• Due to a strained Fox Cities workforce and driver shortages, alternative transportation options are severely limited; this affects both safety and access for attendees.

“We extend our heartfelt thank you to our volunteer planning committee and Chamber staff who worked tirelessly to try and pull off this year’s events,” said Paul Shrode, chair of the Appleton’s Octoberfest Committee. “Although this year won’t bring the traditional License to Cruise and Octoberfest events that the public has come to know and love, we look forward to welcoming the community back in 2022.”

Octoberfest and License to Cruise were cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2019 Octoberfest was the 39th year. Organizers say they want to ensure a quality event for the 40th celebration.

“Our staff, volunteers, board of directors, and partners demonstrated a tremendous commitment to do everything possible to make Appleton’s OctoberfestTM and License to Cruise happen in 2021, even into the month of September,” said Becky Bartoszek, Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce President and CEO. “I commend their good faith, hard work, and community spirit.

“That being said, the situation on the ground over the course of the past month is dictating that the events weren’t meant to happen this year, in this environment. We want to stage the 40th anniversary of Appleton’s Octoberfest when it can be a high-quality event. That means adequate staffing, safety, and transportation, as well as sufficient food and beverage supplies. At this time there is not a path forward to alleviate these concerns before time runs out. This decision to cancel was certainly not taken lightly and definitely not made without the maximum possible effort to prevent it. This community consistently comes together, cares for one another, and works with the best of intentions, and I want to thank everyone who helped and supported us in the planning of this year’s events.”

The events are a big draw for downtown businesses, who told Action 2 News they were caught off guard by the decision to cancel.

“We’re just trying to get back on our feet and we were all very much looking forward to Octoberfest. I had special events planned for the day, so I’m very disappointed,” said Laurie Koestner, owner of the DePawsitory.

Pat Murray, Owner of Murray Photo & Video said, “I know people come from all over the state to enjoy it. It’s just too bad. Even License to Cruise brought a lot of activity. It’s always been safe, fun activity. It’s just too bad.”

Appleton Mayor Jake Woodford the shortage of workers for businesses and volunteers has been an issue across the community.

“It’s a volunteer reliant event like so many but also just having enough vendor booths available again, their concerns really came down to putting on an event that lived up to the high standards of Octoberfest over the years.”

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