An estimated 12,000 people filled the streets of uptown Martinsville on Saturday, taking part in fun activities, sampling German food and enjoying the community’s camaraderie at Oktoberfest.
“The streets were full all the way around (uptown) the whole day,” said Laura Bowles, executive director of Martinsville Uptown, who sponsored the event. “I’m just so excited that people from our community and from surrounding communities came out to have a fun day together.”
“I want to say thank you to the community for coming out and supporting us,” she said, adding that feedback is welcome because Martinsville Uptown always is looking for new ideas for the festival.
“I’m glad we came out,” said Robert Rusnak of Martinsville who went to Oktoberfest with his wife Brenda Rusnak.
The couple was enjoying German cuisine in the “Little Germany” area in the Bridge Street parking lot Saturday afternoon. They ordered a little bit of everything — potato pancakes, pretzels with ham, knockwurst and bratwurst.
The German food was so popular that at one point, the line of customers stretched almost completely across the parking lot and toward the end of the festival. The bratwurst sold out.
While the Rusnaks had to wait in the long line, it was worth it, Brenda Rusnak said.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever eaten German food and it’s delicious,” she said.
Her husband enjoys trying new foods and always has liked German food, so she figured she would give it a try, she added.
Since there are no German restaurants in the area, Robert looks forward to Oktoberfest each year to dig in to some German cuisine, he said.
They also enjoyed some ice cream at the festival.
“It’s a nice day and we’re having a good time,” Robert said, adding that he ran into several people he had not seen in a while, which was nice.
Other than the food, Brenda’s favorite part of Oktoberfest was the vendors selling fall wreaths and jewelry, she said.
Rising Sun Breads of Martinsville was selling German breads and pretzels at the festival.
Shortly after lunch time, Rising Sun Breads had sold out of pretzels, onion bacon pie and apple cake, according to Darla Main-Schneider, owner of the bakery.
At the tent, visitors could sample a variety of German breads including sauerkraut bread, which was a big hit, Main-Schneider said.
She felt that the German foods were so popular because people “want to stay within the (German) theme,” she said. “They want to feel like a part of the whole festival.”
Johnny and Jane Mize of Martinsville were enjoying themselves while sitting in “Little Germany” eating chicken wings and watching the Little German Band perform.
The band got the crowd involved in its dances through either clapping or dancing along in the “Chicken Dance.”
Jane Mize enjoyed the music, the dancing, the camaraderie and seeing people she hasn’t seen in a while, she said.
Her husband liked the upbeat music, he said.
“I think it (the festival) is wonderful,” Jane said. A few years ago, she thought the festival was going to fade out, but this year’s event proved that wrong, she said.
“It’s the best one (Oktoberfest) I’ve ever been to,” Johnny said.
For Tyson and Karen France of Bassett, it was nice just to see so many people Uptown.
“It shows that people are willing to support something going on here,” Tyson France said.
He remembers coming to Oktoberfest when he was younger and the streets being filled. “It kind of looks like it did when I was small,” but now it’s even larger, Tyson said.
The couple used to come to the Oktoberfest every year, but they stopped coming a few years ago after the event had seemed to diminish, Tyson said.
But “it’s more this year than ever ... this year is much better,” Karen said.
“It’s worth coming to” now, she said.
Tyson said that the couple will plan to come again next year now that they see that the event has grown again. Event organizers “have stepped up a lot,” he added.
There also were several activities for children, which made the festival have a family-friendly atmosphere, said Michelle Kendall of Axton, who was there with her two children.
She took her children to the SPCA’s haunted house, bounce houses and the slide, which they seemed to enjoy, Kendall said, adding that she wanted to take her kids out and do something fun on a Saturday afternoon.
The festival “is getting better every year,” she added.
There were a total of 215 vendors at Oktoberfest. Last year, there were 150.
For vendors, it’s a chance to make extra money and meet the community.
“I’m impressed with how big it (the festival) is and how well organized it is,” said Sandra Sale of Stoneville, N.C., who was selling handmade blankets and floral arrangements.
It was Sale’s first time as a vendor in Oktoberfest. She decided to get involved after her sister, Wanda Viars of Ridgeway, told her about “how fun it was and how many people you meet,” Sale said.
By early afternoon, Sale had sold out of her floral arrangements, she added.
Viars also was selling handmade blankets, kitchen towels, potholders, pillows, aprons and other craft items she made.
While she said she sold a lot, she added that she doesn’t do it for the money. “I enjoy the fellowship,” Viars said. “I will be back next year,” she added.