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Sunday, September 30, 2007


Scenes from Appleton's Octoberfest 2007

Appleton just completed its biggest and best Octoberfest ever, with well over 100,000 people from all over joining in for the fun. Record attendance, I understand. I'm not sure how anyone counts all those people, but I suspect a conservative estimate can be made by counting the servings of beer sold and dividing by four (just kidding - it's a remarkably sober event, though beer is certainly one element).

The main Saturday fest spanned a mile of College Avenue, parts of Lawrence University, and Jones Park, a new addition to Octoberfest. Jones Park is just a block south of college avenue and about 100 feet below; steep stairways connect the park, nearly at river level, to the higher altitudes of downtown Appleton. It provided another location for one more band, food, and fun.

Looking out over the curb-to-curb throngs of humanity lining College Avenue during the Saturday event, newcomers might wonder what drives these masses to coalesce in Appleton for this annual event. I think the answer is simple: Tiger Paws! Though they may look like a big slab of fried dough covered in sugar and cinnamon, like a huge flat donut without the whole, those who know the way of Tiger Paws recognize them as a passport to true enjoyment, an escape from tedium of life, and a ticket to fulfillment and self-realization. Or something like that. In other words, fresh, hot Tiger Paws taste great. And I'm not kidding when I say that it's a must-eat-treat for many Octoberfest trekkers. They've been a tradition for over 10 years and are even featured in the radio ads for Octoberfest to help draw people in.

Tiger Paws are made to raise funds for local Boy Scout Troops affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed "Mormons"). The process for making them is actually pretty involved - special procedures, custom equipment, a well-greased supply chain, and lots of practice and know-how to allow us to crank out thousands of delicious, hot Tiger Paws every year to serve them fresh, hot, and delicious to salivating crowds. An awful lot of preparation is required - but it really pays off. If you came by the Tiger Paws booth near Chase Bank and the Paper Valley Hotel, you might have seen me in there doing some of the drying. Quite an experience.

And now, on with the photos!

Here's a view of the crowd on College Avenue around 2 pm. Sadly, some of these people will not take the time to buy a Tiger Paw before leaving, but fortunately there are many other things to enjoy and do - or so I hear.

What beacon is this that draws in crazed masses yearning for culinary delight?

A behind-the-scenes look at the frying and sugaring section of the vast Tiger Paws assembly line.

My son, Mark, and his friend from church, Josué, are working on dough handling.

Appleton's spacious Performing Arts Center momentarily lies in the shadow of something much bigger. What I don't get is why a giant beer bottle has been erected here instead of an inflated Tiger Paw? Maybe next year. (These photos were taken around 7 am, before the crowds showed up.)

At the crack of dawn, College Avenue is already bustling with activity as groups set up their booths and prepare for a busy and long day.

Taking a break from my vending duties I asked a police officer how people were behaving. He stated fine, it wasn't until after Octoberfest closed down and the mass of humanity went into the bars they started having to work.

After we packed our booth up we ate cleaned up and changed and went to Park Central. He was correct, a lot of people were crawling around downtown and there was a very large police presence and we did see a number of police engated in enforcement activities.
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