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Oktoberfest is retired, replaced with Fiesta Fest

Declining attendance cited as reason for change

Oktoberfest is out, and it’s hello — or maybe hola — to the Sandy Fiesta Fest.

That’s the word from leaders of a September community event at St. Michael Catholic Church in Sandy. Once popular, the 20-year-old Oktoberfest had waned in attendance in recent years, said Raul Rubalcava, a St. Michael parishioner and event organizer.

Held at the church property, Oktoberfest included live music, a beer garden, a car show, vendors and other activities, but Rubalcava said it simply didn’t make sense to continue the event in its past form, considering the decreasing number of attendees. Funds raised from the event supported an array of community projects, including church outreach.

“We’ve never lost money, but we don’t make enough money for the trouble we go to put it on,” he said.

Organizers decided to take a different approach for 2016, even as they wanted to save money and reinvigorate community interest in the event.

To that end, they decided to try a “fiesta,” one that would offer Hispanic food and fun. The event will also be condensed from three days to one, and will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10.

As a cost-saving measure, planners are re-purposing the Oktoberfest promotional banner, which is part of the reason “fest” is remaining in the event’s name. They’ll also stop serving beer and provide non-alcoholic beverages instead. Rubalcava said he received some feedback from attendees who felt beer was not appropriate at a church-sponsored event, and slashing beer from the budget will also help the event watch its bottom line.

Food will be prepared by the church’s staff cooks, many of which are Hispanic. A traditional American-style breakfast will be served in the morning, with Latin fare available in the afternoon.

As for entertainment, organizers are reaching out to local dance schools and Hispanic bands that might be willing to donate their services to the event. Rubalcava said he is hoping to find some traditional and modern offerings. The car show component will remain, he added, as will entertainment for the young ones.

Expect piñatas.

“It’s going to be more simple than it was before,” he said. “But I’m hoping that we can attract more of the community.”

Although the event may be small this year, Rubalcava wants and expects it to grow.

“We’re not giving up,” he said. “We like to party too much.”