K.C. Tolson of St. Petersburg was one of the participants in the keg-throwing contest Oct. 12 at Indian Rocks Beach Oktoberbest.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Sherry Deruzzo and Tony Mainridge of Indian Shores attended Oktoberfest Oct. 12 for the first time. They were standing at a high top table enjoying a beer, which is the staple of the event, and they were loving it.
“We’re having a fabulous time, this is our first time,” said Deruzzo. “I’ll definitely be coming back, absolutely. There are many interesting vendors, lots of variety. I like the dogs and the family atmosphere. It is great.”
“This is a great place to people watch,” said Mainridge. “I bought some things here today and the music is good and the weather is excellent.”
The two echoed the sentiments of many visitors to the Oktobefest.
“There are more people here than I’ve ever seen before,” said Diane Flagg. “This is wonderful and as long as my feet hold out I’ll be here till the end.”
Flagg has been helping organize Oktoberfest for years. She’s part of Action 2000, the community group that sponsors the event every year.
The calm, sunny weather allowed sisters Sophia and Mia Carr to use their bubble machines to create a cloud of colorful, floating bubbles, which had other children and adults alike chasing them throughout the crowd, as though there is some sort of special moment when a person can burst a bubble.
“We’re having a blast,” said Sarah Carr, the girls’ mother. “We used to live here before we moved to Redington Beach so we’ve been coming here for years. We’ll be coming again for sure, 100 percent.”
Travis Carr echoed his wife’s sentiments.
“This is a warm and friendly place to be. Just the local crowd makes it fun. You catch up with people you haven’t seen in years. It is a good family atmosphere and the cold beer doesn’t hurt either,” he said laughing.
Throughout Kolb Park, the site of the event, there were dozens of vendors selling all manner of wares. Among them was Barbara Schultz of Largo with her stained glass and kaleidoscopes, or “scopes” as she calls them. She’s been coming to Oktoberfest for years.
“I’ve been coming here for lots of years, since the beginning really,” she said. “I love the atmosphere. It is friendly and you get a sense of community here. I like to support Action 2000 because they do so much for the town.”
Schultz said despite the crowd at this year’s Oktoberfest, it wasn’t paying off for her as it has in other years.
“I’m not sure why, maybe people are just holding onto their money a little more this year. Whatever it is doesn’t matter; I’ll be back next year. I started this as a hobby many years ago and realized that I’d better start selling it or move out of my house. I was running out of room. So I’ll be back.”
Schultz isn’t the only vendor who has been setting up during Oktoberfest for years and who will be back next year. Flagg said there is always a waiting list of vendors who want in.
“We added extra vendors this year,” she said. “But even with the new vendors there was still a waiting list. Every year we are sold out and there is a waiting list.”
Flagg, who co-chairs the event with Rebecca Sacra, said this year’s event seems to be the biggest ever, at least from what she could see.
With the crowds getting bigger every year wouldn’t the organizers like to expand the event to make it considerably bigger? Flagg said there were a couple of reasons why that isn’t an option.
“First of all the location, Kolb Park, just won’t allow us to expand it any more than it is. We can only accommodate so much traffic so we can’t ask for more than we can handle,” she said. “Secondly we want this to remain a community event here in Indian Rocks.”
Flagg made a point of saying her group, Action 2000, couldn’t do it without the help of the city.
“There were commissioners and city staff working all over the grounds, even the new City Manager Gregg Mims was working in one of the Bouncy Houses at Kinderfest, the brainchild of Commissioner Terry Hamilton-Wollin, who spent hours in the hot sun working at the event.”
Although Oktoberfest raises thousands of dollars for Action 2000, money that goes back into the community through various projects, Flagg said the event is about more than that.
“Everybody benefits. People who come here for this come back and spend their money all over town. I spoke to a man from Germany who comes back here every year just so he can
enjoy Oktoberfest. That is what it is all about,” she said. “That is what we are trying to do, say Welcome to Indian Rocks Beach. Why not come back and see what kind of a town we really are.”
Flagg said it will take several weeks before all the bills are paid and the final numbers are in, but she expects the event will have raised $20,000 when all is said and done.