QUEENSBURY — It’s nothing compared to the crowds of summer, but Great Escape has been slowly expanding its Oktoberfest to create an off-season event.
The September event last year was expanded to three weekends, rather than two, and is showing success, park Marketing Manager Brit Gillespie told the Queensbury Town Board on Monday.
The company asked for $25,000 in occupancy tax funding to help put on the event. It costs the park $174,500 to run it, and the board has given it $25,000 in the past. Board members praised the event but have not yet voted on this year’s allocations.
The meeting offered an unusual look into the finances of a private company.
Oktoberfest isn’t quite as popular as the summer park offerings or Fright Fest around Halloween. But it’s becoming a strong event for a different clientele, during the first month of school when many families are busy.
“It is a great shoulder season event,” Gillespie said.
Great Escape Director of Sales & Marketing Jennifer Mance added that it helps draw visitors to the Lake George area, supporting other tourist attractions.
“Our traditional Oktoberfest event provides another great reason for a beautiful fall visit, offering unique food, beverage and entertainment experiences and provides promotion to drive more tourist business to the area in September,” she said.
The promotions are considerable: the park spends $35,000 to advertise the event specifically and autumn in general in the Lake George area. That’s almost $1 per person who comes to the event.
Board members agreed that the promotions — and the park — are an important part of the region’s success.
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“When we talk about tourism, probably the No. 1 draw is the amusement park,” said board member George Ferone.
But running the event is not cheap. It’s very different from the regular season experience of rides and water park fun.
The water park is closed in the fall, due to the cold weather, and some rides are also closed. Instead, the park hires a series of entertainers, spending $24,000 on their fees.
It rents stages for the performances, at a cost of $10,500.
The entertainers also get catered meals — at a cost of $1,500 — and free lodging, estimated at $3,000.
Of course, the workers who run the rides and restaurants make up the largest portion of the budget. Great Escape spends $90,000 on labor for a total of six days of the festival.
It drew in 40,000 people last year. The company estimates that the festival leads to people reserving 1,500 hotel rooms each night.
If the park wasn’t running Oktoberfest, it wouldn’t close for the month, Mance said.
She noted that the park can’t lay off all its employees for a month and then get them back for the hugely popular month-long celebration of Halloween.
“Regardless if we had our Oktoberfest event or not, the Great Escape would still be open weekends in September and providing jobs to our seasonal team members,” she said.