ENCINITAS — The parking lot is graded, the beer will be flowing and the bratwurst will be in plentiful supply in Olivenhain this Sunday for the 44th straight year.
But for those closely associated with the town’s signature spring event and the other town events, the 44th Olivenhain Brat & Beer Festival marks a major milestone — and a huge sigh of relief for organizers.
It is the largest of the major events the Olivenhain Town Council has thrown since last year’s Oktoberfest was canceled due to a lack of volunteers, a problem that threatened the viability of many of the Olivenhain-sponsored events.
“I think last year did serve as a wake-up call to people” said Dave Perryman, who serves as the president of the Town Council, which represents about 400 of the 1,600 families who live in the eastern Encinitas stronghold. “I think a lot of people felt they were entitled to the events, and when it wasn’t there, they said, “Hmm, maybe something is going on.”
Olivenhain was founded by German immigrants in the late 1880s
The Town Council, which formed in 1967, owns the historic Olivenhain Meeting Hall and the accompanying Germania Hotel on Rancho Santa Fe Road. It hosts a series of community events on the property each year, including a Brat and Beer Fest in April, the Outdoor Cinema Series in August and September, a craft fair in November and a wine tasting event in December.
For years, finding sufficient volunteers for the event was not an issue for the Town Council. But gradually over time, the community has evolved from its agrarian roots to more of a commuter community. Perryman said both membership and the town council and its volunteer base have waned.
Currently, Perryman said, only one quarter of the families in Olivenhain are council members.
This means that a core group of volunteers has been charged with much of the heavy pre-planning that goes into pulling off the events — and that core group has suffered from burnout, Perryman said.
A few years ago, however, the group eliminated its annual Fourth of July picnic and its children’s Halloween parade due to a lack of volunteer leaders. The July Fourth picnic tradition was a huge loss, Perryman said, because that event had been held since the early pioneer days.
Last year, the council decided to cancel Oktoberfest, in part because it was not as well attended as some of the other local events. But its absence was noticed.