Culture of volunteerism: Oktoberfest receives President’s Award

March 2019 Posted in Community, Food & Drink

Image by Jim Kinghorn

By Daniele Keating

Mt. Angel Chamber of Commerce Past President Pete Wall selected Oktoberfest to receive the 2018 President’s Award for its tremendous community accomplishments and charitable contributions.

Inaugurated in 2014, the President’s Award recognizes those who do a great service to the community or the Chamber. This year is the first time an organization has been selected for the award.

Oktoberfest, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation run by an all-volunteer board of directors. Since its inception in 1966, it has given more than $3.4 million in grants and donations to non-profit organizations, causes and charities
located in Mount Angel and the surrounding area.

“They give away a lot of money and have for a long time,” said Wall, who formerly served on the Oktoberfest Board of Directors and has served as the Chamber’s official Oktoberfest liaison.

“They have created a sense of volunteerism that I have never seen anywhere, ever,” Wall added.

Wall explained that the festival relies on thousands of volunteers every year and that the spirit of volunteerism has been carried forward to other events and activities through the community.

“The kids – as they grow up – they start volunteering. It’s created a culture of volunteerism that is amazing,” said Wall.

A lot goes on behind the scenes of the festival; planning and coordinating efforts go on all year.

The elected board of 19 volunteers manages the volunteer-led festival that draws on average more than 350,000 people over the course of four days. More than 50 not-for-profit food vendors participate, many of which make the majority of their annual revenue during the event. Last year, participating vendors grossed more than $750,000 in combined revenue.

The festival board also decides on which organizations that apply for financial assistance will be supported. Last year, the organization donated more than $116,000 to 45 different non-profits in 10 different cities. Oktoberfest has paid for equipment for the fire department, purchased computers for schools and financed the bleachers built at Kennedy High School, just to name some of the contributions.

Oktoberfest also has a history of meeting other’s needs beyond the community’s own. In 1975, the board permitted the then-beer hall to serve as a temporary shelter for nearly 170 orphans and adults evacuated from South Vietnam following the American withdrawal.

“Oktoberfest is a source of community pride,” stated Wall matter-of-factly. “There are a lot of small towns, but pretty much everyone knows where Mount Angel is because of the festival.”

Wall will present the President’s Award to the Oktoberfest Board of Directors at the First Citizens Banquet on Monday, March 18. Other awards that will be presented include: First Citizen: Mayor Andy Otte; Jr First Citizen: Nick Suing; Business of the Year: Tiny’s Tavern; Distinguished Service: Mount Angel Abbey; and Special Service: American Legion Post 89.

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