Stowe Rotary is packing up its lederhosen and steins for good, confirms Rotary president Jen Colin.

That’s the end of the line for Stowe Rotary’s Oktoberfest.

The weekend-long event was a Stowe staple for 21 years, making it old enough just last year to finally crack open one of the sudsy lagers or pilsners it brought people together to enjoy.

Festival revenue declined over time and it takes a lot of work to put on, Colin said.

She said the decision to end Oktoberfest’s run was difficult, but it will allow Stowe Rotary to focus its energy on new fundraisers.

The event raised money for Rotary’s community service projects and scholarships, as well as the the Stowe Fire Department, which took home what it earned from working the grill on the opening night of the event.

In 2016, it raised between $40,000 and $50,000 and had about 4,000 attendees.

Colin declined to share the amount raised at 2017’s Oktoberfest.

“We did have a decline in numbers this year, and that’s not just for this year. Over the last three years, we’ve seen a gradual decline in revenue from the event. Let’s just say that our club wants to make sure that we can maintain a level of support in the community that we’ve done in the past,” Colin said.

In 2016, Phil Bongiorno, a prominent member of Stowe Rotary and a chief organizer of the event, said discussion about whether to continue Oktoberfest happens every year due to the advancing age of many Rotarians and the effort it takes to put the festival together.

“It takes a lot of energy to pull it off,” he said in 2016. “When you have 75-year-olds cleaning up late on a Saturday night, there’s only so much they can do. We have to be practical about what our capabilities are.”

It takes around 50 volunteers to set up, clean up, man tables and coordinate Oktoberfest events, and many Stowe Rotary members are over age 65.

“I don’t think people realize to a certain degree how much work is involved in Oktoberfest. Work starts in January, culminating in hours and hours at the end. When it’s successful, it’s worthwhile,” Bongiorno said. When that success tapers off, it becomes less worthwhile.

“When your focus and energies are on one event for the year, it really does monopolize your time and your ability to try to do fun and new things. I had no idea until this year,” Colin said. “In previous years, I coordinated volunteers and that was a huge list. I had no idea what it really required. It was like having another job for a while. We are a volunteer organization made up of members of our community, and it was definitely a heavy lift to put on an event of that magnitude.”

Over the course of its run, the festival has brought in more than $1 million, Colin said.

Rotarian Heidi Scheuermann said she’s excited for the opportunity to try something new.

“We’re a victim of our own success. We’re a small club, and it’s become more of a challenge now to put (Oktoberfest) on and produce it. I’m excited for our new phase, and I think the community will be excited to see what we’re endeavoring to do,” Scheuermann said.

The Stowe tourism community is among the groups excited to see what Stowe Rotary has up its sleeve.

“Events are an important component of the visitor and resident experience in Stowe,” said Amy Morrison, Stowe Area Association’s executive director. “The Stowe Rotary Club fostered the growth and has produced Oktoberfest for over two decades. As champions of our region, we look forward to learning more about their new program of events.”

Sam von Trapp, director and executive vice president at Trapp Family Lodge, which runs von Trapp Brewing and Bierhall, theorized that Oktoberfest’s decline might be linked to the growing popularity of brewfests around Vermont. It’s harder to compete, said von Trapp.

One of Stowe Rotary’s new events will take place March 16 at Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa, when it hosts Casino Royale, which promises to “bring Vegas to you.” The club will have more information and tickets soon.

“We’re really looking forward to it. Things are coming together really well,” Scheuermann said.

The Stowe Rotary Club would like to sincerely thank our very generous Oktoberfest Sponsors - in 2017 and throughout the years.
And, we'd like to thank the community of Stowe for all of your support throughout the years.
We look forward to our new phase of fundraising events and continued community, regional, an international service.