Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Der Suckenfest

According to a recent Post-Dispatch article, the Strassenfest will be moving from downtown to Chesterfield, of all places. The once-popular German festival will now be held on Chesterfield Parkway, outside of the Macy's store at Chesterfield Mall.

According to festival organizer Lou Mueller:

"We looked at the demographics of it. People just weren't coming downtown. We feel we're closer to a mass of people that don't have to come as far."

I don't believe that moving Strassenfest will have much of an economic impact on downtown St. Louis; however, I don't like the message that moving the festival sends - that a successful event cannot be held in downtown St. Louis. I beg to differ.

Unlike Chesterfield, or any other part of the region for that matter, downtown is designed to accomodate crowds and serve as the public gathering place for major events such as the Strassenfest. I have a hard time believing that it's downtown's fault that the event has not been as successful recently as it had in years past.

I've attended a few Strassenfests in recent years and have generally found the festival to be lacking in terms of programming and identity. It largely featured the same beer booths and funnel cakes that you can find at just about any other fair (or even church picnic), with occasional polka music to make it "authentic."

A poor-quality event, combined with the fact that the Strassenfest had traditionally been held in the sweltering heat and humidity of first week of August - easily the most miserable time in which to hold any outdoor event in this part of the country - are most likely the reasons behind the festival's dwindling attendance in recent years, not because it was held downtown. Hold the Strassenfest downtown in the cooler weather of September 18-20 (the dates of the upcoming Chesterfield Strassenfest), and I'm fairly confident the event would be much better attended.

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