Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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October 6, 2012

FIRST FRIDAYS: Fall-like weather perfect for Oktoberfest theme

GOSHEN — Cold weather and changing leaves made Goshen’s First Fridays Oktoberfest seem all the more autumn-like.

Crowds gathered downtown on Washington Street to take in events for all ages, from pumpkin decorating and hay rides to a beer garden and “Feats of Strength,” a new event created by new First Fridays coordinator Katrina Maust.

“This ties in with the ‘Oktoberfest’ theme,” Maust said. “I see these events as displaying brawn, and they help get people active. They’re fun.”

The “Feats of Strength” included a high-striker, a log sawing contest, an arm wrestling competition, a nail hammering contest and stein racing, according to Maust.

The stein racing is not a drinking game, but rather a speed race of who can carry six full steins of beer the fastest without spilling any liquid, Maust said.

“We’ll also have the belly competition, where we’re looking for the most beautiful Oktoberfest belly,” Maust said with a smile.

Next month’s First Fridays, held Nov. 2, will focus on the “art of the everyday,” according to Maust. Also downtown was pumpkin decorating for children. Terri Wentz, part of the event staff for First Fridays, helped local children with stickers and other no-mess decorations.

“There’s no paint or sticky stuff,” Wentz said. “It helps keep things clean.”

Wentz said the cold weather during Friday’s event was chillier than normal — par for the course of strange weather plaguing First Fridays during 2012.

“Since May we’ve either had temperatures too warm to be comfortable or rainy and drizzly weather,” Wentz said. “Last year was perfect, and we had about 380 pumpkins for kids to decorate. This year, we cut it by about 100.”

Goshen College also participated in First Fridays with live music and swing dancing. Public Relations director Richard Aguirre said the college loves to work with First Fridays.

“That’s part of the reason for the banner (“Goshen College Loves First Fridays,” hanging outside The Electric Brew downtown),” he said. “Goshen has been very welcoming to the college, and it helps that we have alumni stay in the community after they graduate.”

The college’s Homecoming weekend falls this weekend, Aguirre said.

“This is a great time to welcome the alumni into Goshen,” he said.

Just beyond Washington Street, Fifth Street played host to the Clubhouse’s open house celebration. The Clubhouse is a member-driven community for individuals who have suffered mental illness, director Rich Meyer said. The Clubhouse helps those individuals transition into work or school.

“This was jump-started by a group here, including Leah (Garboden), who wanted something in Elkhart County,” Meyer said.

Garboden said the Clubhouse provides a different way of looking at mental illness.

“We needed something to be more than a medical treatment center,” Garboden said.

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