Clinton business groups plan for Oktoberfest fall festival

Oompah music will blare, brats will sizzle and beer will flow this October in Clinton.

The area’s Chamber of Commerce and the Clinton Progressive Association are meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to begin planning the Clinton Oktoberfest. The fall celebration imitates a German tradition that marks a time for food, drink and dance beyond its origins in Munich, and it could be a welcome boost for the struggling ferry area that has seen businesses close or move.

“It’s early in the process, but I’m hoping we can make it as much fun and get as many people involved as possible,” said Bob Craven, chairman of the Clinton Chamber of Commerce, adding that Oktoberfest could “provide a little life to Clinton.”

Several years ago, Clinton held a fall festival. But at some point, Langley began its own October celebration, and Clinton’s ended. Marc Esterly, Langley Chamber of Commerce executive director, canceled Langley’s Oktoberfest last year because the event wasn’t as lucrative as they hoped and did not fit the chamber’s goals.

“It’s just not in our business plan to do a beer garden,” Esterly said.

One of the chief concerns for the Langley fall festival was weather. Come October, some decent days remain but fall’s winds and rains become more prevalent, making an outdoor activity like beer drinking, Bavarian music and stein races less enjoyable.

Those are all problems that may seemingly be avoided in Clinton. With the help of the Clinton Progressive Association, the event will center around the Clinton Community Hall, which has a commercial kitchen and ample space for indoor entertainment. Its parking lot may also be converted into an open-air tent beer garden.

“As with any event, you start small and build on it,” Craven said.

“We want it to be a good time for the community and for people to enjoy themselves. We want it to be for residents of the area, not just visitors.”

Drawing visitors and tourists, however, is a driving force for planning Clinton Oktoberfest. Bringing people to Whidbey Island in the “shoulder” seasons of spring and fall, Clinton’s chamber chairman said, is a tourism push for the county.

“We don’t have any trouble getting people over here in summer,” Craven said.

Clinton hopes to use some of the county’s two percent hotel/motel tax to pay for the two-day party, tentatively planned for the first Friday and Saturday in October.

Ideally, the festival would bring tourists to stay overnight on South Whidbey. Though not a single conventional hotel or motel exists in Clinton, Craven name-dropped several rental properties and bed-and-breakfasts in the area. He also hoped visitors would stay in Langley or Freeland.

“We’re happy if people want to stay in Langley as well,” Craven said. “We’re not trying to compete with Langley, we’re trying to do things that are mutually beneficial.”

The meeting, though technically a gathering of the Clinton Chamber of Commerce and Clinton Progressive Association, would welcome guests with ideas about Oktoberfest.


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