Wednesday, October 17, 2007

an oktoberfest to forget

Oktoberfest was held downtown this weekend.

Didn't hear about it?

Well, don't feel bad, it seems no one else did either.

Met some friends to get some food Friday night, and parts of Federal Street were closed off. There were tables, seats, tents, and a place for dancing set up along our main drag - all unfortunately empty.

Vendors were there, selling pretzels, hot sandwiches, German beer in enormous glasses, and some very tasty homemade macadamia cookies. The band was supposed to play till 11pm, but they packed it up early, so then there was an empty stage as well.

The Oktoberfest continued on Saturday. Stopped by in the early afternoon and it was empty. And this was two blocks away at the Children's Museum, where hundreds and hundreds of people and their kids were celebrating at the Halloween Spooktacular. When the band took a break, they quadrupled the number of people in the audience. Prost! (these guys were awesome, btw)

Stopped by immediately after the YSU football victory (thousands and thousands at the stadium), bringing someone from California and it was empty. Stopped by later that evening, empty as well. Not a good demonstration of a lively place to visitors.

here are some videos at various times and days of the event:

When I asked around to various bloggers, students, and media personalities, no one heard about the Oktoberfest.

Not to sound snarky, but when the people who are actively looking for things about Youngstown don't hear about an event like this, how is the public supposed to discover it?

So perhaps advertising is at the heart of the problem.

There are a number of events downtown this year that had a similar lack of attendance, including several West End parties and a few others listed on the pamphlet of events released by the Office of Economic Development.

To be sure, there have been great events as well that were heavily visited, and the city should be commended for its efforts. Whoever advertised for these successful gatherings should be commended.

Maybe the event should have been announced at the YSU game, where there were thousands of people a couple of blocks away. Maybe the event could have been displayed on the home page of the city's website. Maybe the city can start a blog to publicize it's events.

In all of this, the people I feel bad for are the champs in the private sector who stepped up last weekend.

This includes the owners of Imbibe who made a serious effort to bring German beer and food to the event. It also can't be fun for a handful of bands, some clad in traditional German attire, to play to an empty crowd. Hopefully, if the event occurs again, these people will remain involved, but one wonders how much their partnership can continue when the lack of participation is so apparent.

As the downtown progresses though ups and downs, a critical eye will be needed to observe what works and what doesn't - and the city will need to make the changes so future events are successes and not flops.

Are their any recommendations you can provide to make these events more heavily attended?


Mike Prelee said...

Too bad I didn't here about this event. I would have been glad to do a post on it to help promote it. Maybe Youngstown event planners should add area bloggers to marketing plans. I can think of at least one recent event left in the hands of bloggers that got plenty of exposure.

Debra Weaver said...

I too was downtown on Friday night and was walking around after dinner when we came upon the Octoberfest. The music was great! but we were upset that we were the only ones there to hear it. I would assume that press releases were sent to the radio, tv, and print media in the Valley. If not, shame on the organizers. I do have a couple of suggestions however, one is that MYTV is under utilized and an organizer and/or performer could have gone on and talked about the event. I have also been noticing another phenomena. When an event is listed on the LED lighted signs around campus, events tend to draw larger crowds. I would suggest that perhaps the city contact YSU and see if they will post some city events. If the university cannot do that, perhaps the city should invest in some LED moving signs to be placed at various key entrances to the city so that events could be promoted. There certainly are enough things going on in the city to warrant this.

Tyler said...

Advertising seems pretty obvious. I was shocked to hear how great the band sounded and to see noone there (ok, two people). How does one put the time and energy (and resources) into creating this event and then not tell anyone about it. I saw Claire Maluso at the Children's Museum Spooktakular, where she was handing out fliers, but that seemed to be the only advertising going on. Sad...

It's most frustrating because it allows people to claim that noone comes to downtown, which we know isn't true. There were plenty of people at the Spooktakular, for instance. But the first we heard about Oktoberfest (frustratingly spelled Octoberfest on the flier) was at the museum.

Katie Libecco said...

Sadly, I knew of the event but didn't go, since I had no idea what would be involved in a Youngstown October/Oktoberfest. I figured it'd be like the rest of the downtown events, and feature a few homeless people dancing at a cover band that usually plays only the worst dives. When I left work Friday afternoon, all I knew is that more downtown streets were blocked off for no people walking around. Either this is happening more, or I didn't notice it like I do now.

Do I sound bitter? I probably am, a little. Downtown events could be so much more... and I agree, props to Imbibe for ALWAYS giving these downtown events their all.

Anonymous said...

maybe they should have moved the event to a place where people could find it? I was on vacation in august and stumbled across an oktoberfest-like celebration in a small town... i was on my way to the restaurant row area and saw this big thing going on. so i ate there instead of at a restaurant. location, location, location.

i'm often looking for stuff to do in youngstown when i'm passing through or visiting my relatives there and haven't yet found a good web site.

-- m.k. in akron

Accent Media, LLC said...

Unfortunately this was a case of bad publicity. We work in 20 Federal Place, the old PharMor Building, and honestly didn't know about it until I came in that morming and had to navigate a client for a place to park. I did post a quick blog about it the day of the event on our blog, but we are so new, we really do not have the readership to make a difference as of yet.

I think the bloggers need to be on an email list of Claire Maluso, the unofficial ambassador to Downtown Youngstown, and part of the Office of Economic Development. After the event, I went Monday to Claire's office and volunteered to help spread the word in all ways I could to help promote future events. We are a media company, and although we are just moving into more advertising to go along with our production, we can surely help gratis to get the city booming again. There are a lot of core people dedicated to Youngstown, and especially Downtown Youngstown, that word could be spread with the right contact list. Food for thought for us downtown businesses and bloggers and supporters to maybe create our own and give it to the City and powers that be..........Scott

Anonymous said...

It has everything to do with poor marketing for this event.. seeing Claire pass out flyers for the oktoberfest at the fest itself was the most disgusting thing I have ever seen. As stated before, there were multiple places to publicize this event but no one took the time to do it... particularly because the city's planning team is made of people that have no concept of promotion. Flyers won't cut it anymore. Merely printing an article in the entertainment section of the vindy won't do it either.
We clearly know who messed this one up..and it certainly is time to get YOUNGER people involved with events like this. I know that things will go so much smoother (and more successful.. think of all the MONEY lost by those who participated!!)once the city's planning team changes. I can't wait until then.. hopefully we'll stop having pointless ribbon cuttings/ceremonies for landscape structures or openings of temporary offices downtown and start spending money on important events that draw people to our city.