The bilge pumps on the MainStrasse Village Association were already working overtime, furiously trying to dump a boatload of debt overboard from its Maifest and Goettafest events earlier in 2018. Extreme weather events during those two festivals negatively impacted attendance and revenue.

The MainStrasse Village Association’s financial future, which had been a solvent and successful organization for 30 years, now hinged on a good-weather weekend in early September 2018.

That’s when thousands of people were expected to converge on the city’s historic, German-inspired MainStrasse neighborhood for its iconic and popular Oktoberfest event, pumping much-needed cash into the group’s coffers.

But that weekend the skies darkened and it rained.

Then it poured.

The association’s hopes to remain financially solvent were dissolved in the copious drops of water that fell from the sky that fateful Saturday in September as the thousands of visitors expected to enjoy bratwursts, schnitzel, potato pancakes, giant cream puffs, German chocolate cake, apple strudel, live music, rides and beer stayed away.

Unable to pay for costly weather insurance, the association was saddled with a loss of more than $100,000 from the poorly attended Oktoberfest event.

It was the death knell for the MainStrasse Village Association.

Just a few weeks after Oktoberfest the association agreed to declare bankruptcy. The Chapter 7 filing means the nonprofit group that has been running festivals, promoting tourism and helping manage events for over 30 years in MainStrasse Village will eventually be dissolved as a 501(c)(4) organization.

The Maifest, Goettafest and Oktoberfest events will no longer take place unless another group steps up to manage the events.

That could be bad for many of the businesses in MainStrasse Village that have benefited over the years from the large number of people the festivals brought to the area.

Mark Apseloff, owner of Kimmy’s Korner Grocery, says the festivals increased his business by about 25 percent each day. “It would be a nice increase because we get people who are going down to the festival who would buy soft drinks and beer … and cigarettes. And we sell pizza so we’d have an increase in that. And then coming home the same thing.”

Mary Kay Lonneman, owner of MK’s Totebags and Monogramming, says she also enjoyed good weekends of sales during the events. “And even if people didn’t buy it was a good way for people to see the store and come back later,” says Lonneman.

Tim Eversole, owner of Bean Haus Bakery & Cafe, agreed that the exposure his business received during the festivals was also good for his business. “We don’t get a lot of business from it that week [of the festival], we get business from it two or three weeks later,” he says. “It does positively impact us for weeks to come after that.”

Which is exactly the point of the festivals, he says. “It’s about awareness. That’s what the festivals are for … is awareness. You bring people into the city of Covington, they have fun and they want to come back.”

Once people discover new businesses during the festivals they tell other people about them, says Stephen L. J. Hoffman, justice of the peace and magistrate of Kenton County who performs wedding ceremonies. “That’s what I depend on,” he says. “And not having those crowds does … hurt me.”

Not only will the lack of festivals hurt the bottom line of businesses in the MainStrasse Village it will also take away a piece of history. “It’s a tradition and you hate to see those things end,” says Apseloff.

Hoffman says, “They’re going to be sorely missed.”

Not everyone, however, will miss the festivals.

“I’m glad that they’re over with,” says Kevin Swayne, owner of Swayne on Main beauty shop. “They’re a pain in the a-- for most people down here.”

Swayne says festivalgoers would take all the parking spots his customers would normally use. “When you’re trying to operate a business around a festival—I don’t care what town it is—it’s not an easy thing,” says Swayne. “I don’t benefit from [the festivals] at all and I don’t really care about them.”

But for those businesses that did benefit from the festivals what will happen now? Amy Kummler, owner of the Up Over Bar, says that while the MainStrasse Village Association is bankrupt many of the businesses in the area are doing well financially.

“People assumed the businesses went bankrupt or … were doing bad and that is not true,” says Kummler. “Everybody is booming.”

But make no mistake, those events did help increase the bottom line of businesses like her own bar, she says. “Oh, heck yeah. I love the festivals!” says Kummler.

So is anything being done to bring the festivals back to MainStrasse Village? Kummler says yes—a group of businesspeople is meeting to explore ways to bring the festivals back to MainStrasse Village.

“There’s a couple different people looking at taking on Oktoberfest and Maifest, Goettafest,” says Kummler. “There will be events in MainStrasse and I think they will be on a smaller scale, a little more upscale.”

Ken Smith, Covington’s director of neighborhood services, confirmed that there is a group of MainStrasse Village businesspeople meeting to figure out how to bring the festivals back to MainStrasse Village.

“We have met with business owners in the neighborhood just trying to gauge what their plans were and what their … thoughts were on the festivals moving forward,” says Smith. He says there was a general consensus that the businesses wanted to have some type of continuing activity—whether it was festivals or something else—in the MainStrasse Village that would promote the area.

Kummler is optimistic the festivals will return to MainStrasse Village, but she says the younger generation of business leaders need to step up. “It needs new blood,” she says. “I think in the long run it’s going to be great.”

It’s a sunny view that may soon be needed on festival days.




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