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Large crowds attend Cooptoberfest
By Chad Welch
COOPERSTOWN — The smile on Matt Hazzard’s face spoke volumes Saturday — the inaugural Cooptoberfest was a hit.
The Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce Director said he had hoped for good weather and a large crowd Saturday, and he got both, as Cooperstown tried out a replacement for its former fall event, the Cooperstown Pumpkin Festival.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 people were estimated to have attended the day-long event that transformed Cooperstown’s Main St. into a fairground on a spectacular autumn day. Throughout the event, Hazzard made his rounds, checking in with volunteers, vendors, merchants and visitors, and the response was overwhelmingly positive, he said.
“I think it was successful because the community rallied behind it,” Hazzard said. “Of course, we had amazing fall weather, but the ability to walk on and enjoy Main Street freely like this is something that doesn’t happen often, and everyone seemed to love it.”
Cooptoberfest, sponsored by Brewery Ommegang, was a collaboration between the Cooperstown Chamber and the Rotary Club of Cooperstown designed to help promote business and raise funds the Rotary Club will use to make donations to local causes and organizations.
Angie Erway, of the Cooperstown Rotary, who arranged volunteers from her club and students from the State University College at Oneonta, praised the leadership efforts of both Hazzard and Hanna Bergene for orchestrating a fun event that had a variety of activities for people of all ages.
“The atmosphere in my opinion was great,” she said. “Everyone was happy and enjoying themselves. There truly was something for everyone. I heard a lot of comments about all there was for kids to enjoy. I hope the positive feedback continues to roll in.”
In the heart of the action were two large bounce houses and carnival style games. Nearby, a fire truck and tractor were on hand, while pony rides and a balloon-making clown, Chee Chee, provided even more entertainment.
A radar gun set up by the Cooperstown Soccer Club clocked how fast youngsters could kick a soccer ball. There was an Irish dancing demonstration, a dog kissing both by the SPCA and a variety of craft vendors.
A live music tent helped complete the festival tone, and Shayne Coyne of CNY Cornhole staged a double-elimination cornhole tournament featuring 48 two-person teams who competed more than a four-hour period on eight courts. The winners, Tyler and Brian Kiddle of Kirkville, won their weight in beer at Brewery Ommegang.
The street and sidewalks were packed with people all day long and well into the evening. So too were the restaurants and bars, most of which had lines of people waiting to be seated from breakfast until well past dinner.
When asked about what impact it all had on local businesses, Hazzard shared some of the comments of vendors and merchants he had spoken with, like Todd Gibbons of Riverwood, a gift shop that specializes in toys and hard-to-find children’s games.
“How could I not be happy? I’m between a bouncy house and pony rides, with cornhole right in front of my store,” Hazzard said Gibbons told him.
Hazzard added, “Chris Grady of Stagecoach Coffee said it best when he said ‘It made a fall day like a summer day in terms of business.’ The Pig Dog food truck sold out completely. The vendors who set up street booths told me they sold three times as much stuff as they had planned on selling.”
When afternoon turned to evening, the bouncy houses were deflated and the street vendors took down their booths as Cooptoberfest gave way to Cooperstown On Tap: an adult only specialty brew-and cider- tasting produced by Townsquare Media’s America On Tap division.
Ticketholders enjoyed samples from New York craft brewers and even more live music. A tent stretching from the Main Street flagpole east past the Baseball Hall of Fame was wall-to-wall with people, with many residents, former locals and visitors who made the weekend trip from places like Albany and Buffalo, Boston and New York City.
Aaron Stayman, who graduated from CCS in 1994 and is a neurologist in Seattle, came home to play with the band Bourbon and Branch, which reunited him with schoolmates and past bandmates, Will Green and Orion Palmer, who now both reside in Hartwick.
“When Will told me what was going on, I knew I wanted in on it,” Stayman said.
Cooptoberfest and Cooperstown On Tap brought more people to Main Street, and kept them there for a longer period of time than any of Chamber’s past events since the cancellation of PumpkinFest. Many locals told Hazzard they would enjoy days like this more often, perhaps even more than once a year.
A survey was shared with Chamber members to receive feedback about the event and also to get suggestions on what improvements can be made next year.
“We hope that we helped bring more people to town, which brought more business to town, and ultimately makes visitors want to come and experience it again,” Hazzard said.