Teamwork makes the dream work.
It takes a team of more than 400 volunteers and organizers working together to make the annual Lee’s Summit Oktoberfest a success. This year, the event will be held Sept. 27-28. The carnival considers through Sept. 29.
Committee organizers partner with volunteers throughout the year to bring the three-day event, sponsored by the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce, to historic downtown Lee’s Summit. Celebrating its 30th year, this team began planning and preparing for the 2019 Oktoberfest two weeks after last year’s event.
“We have a magnificent downtown area for hosting this festival and the merchants are so supportive, regardless of the fact that the event disrupts their business,” said Melissa Grinlinton, Oktoberfest chairwoman. “But, we have to go back to back to the fantastic volunteers. Many of the same volunteers and groups come back year after year, including our police and fire departments.”
Oktoberfest volunteers include families, businesses, professional organizations and members of high school athletic teams. From November of the previous year up to Oktoberfest weekend, their projects and responsibilities range from organizing vendors and festival layout, to food and entertainment, as they prepare to host nearly 100,000 attendees.
In the days just before, during and after the festival, Oktoberfest volunteer teams close streets, move in stages, set-up and take down tables, manage electrical, water and other infrastructure, direct activities and collect trash.
Since its founding, Oktoberfest has grown exponentially. More modest in size during the early years, it has expanded to include a carnival, multiple entertainment venues, and two blocks of arts and crafts vendors. A kid’s street features more than 70 vendors and a popular Rootbiergarten. In the grown-up Biergarten, festival-goers can also enjoy authentic German food. Special events include a grape stomp and a home-brew competition.
Lynn Hinkle, Oktoberfest co-chairwoman, believes organization, down to the last detail, has been key to the event’s success.
“We get better every year because we have tremendous coordinators who create the most detailed work plans I’ve ever seen anywhere,” Hinkle said. “After each Oktoberfest ends, we also take a look at what we can do better to make improvements for next year.”
Festival organizers have also had to overcome a few challenges over the years.
“One of the obstacles we faced years ago was getting people to volunteer,” Grinlinton said. “We networked to promote Oktoberfest to businesses and groups as a team-building opportunity. Now, we have 19 business partners and hundreds of volunteers who come back every year.”
Hinkle, Grinlinton and Connie Smith, interim event director, all agree that family, community and tradition intersect to create this success.
“My son, Stephen, and his Lee’s Summit North football teammates used to take down tables after Oktoberfest,” Hinkle said. “Now, he comes back with my three grandchildren.”
“This is a family event,” Smith said. “You can bring your kids and it’s safe. All ages and groups can find something fun and something to enjoy. It’s not expensive and you can get a great German meal.
“It’s a tradition that others will carry on. Oktoberfest has a future and everyone is welcome. It’s like a big family reunion.”