Before the party, city workers prepare

Ariana van den Akker/The Herald
Andy Lindauer, right, marked the correct length on a piece of wood he was about to cut after Gary Horney, left, measured a drain on Main Street just north of the Square in Jasper on Thursday afternoon. The two Jasper Street Department workers were fitting filters to drains around the Square so trash from the Strassenfest will not end up in the drains. The Strassenfest kicks off Thursday evening and runs through Sunday.

By CANDY NEAL
Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — Preparation for this weekend’s Strassenfest celebration started well in advance of the four-day festival.

As groups prepare the goodies they will sell in their booths and get ready for the activities they will sponsor, City of Jasper employees work extra duties into their schedules to help out before and during the festival, which will run from Thursday to Sunday.

For instance, the groups that sell food don’t have to worry about seating for their hungry guests. The park and recreation department takes care of that. On Monday and today, park workers, including maintenance supervisor J.P. Stemply, were hauling picnic tables to the beer garden at Fourth and Main streets as well as setting them up on Main Street just north of the beer garden.

“We started at 6:30 in the morning and finished around 3,” Stemply said Monday. “Normally we use two trailers, but we’re a little shorthanded right now, because we have some other work to do too.”

A single trailer made multiple trips to carry the 110 picnic tables that workers grabbed from city parks to the festival site, Ken Buck said. “We try to leave one or two in each park, for people who may come visit,” he said. “But the majority are taken to the Strassenfest.”

Park crews also go to area sports venues and grab eight or nine sets of bleachers to set up near the main and west stages around the Square, Stemply said. Workers also take care of the train rides and upkeep of the Riverwalk and Schaeffer Barn, Buck added.

City electric workers connected power boxes and installed aluminum poles for the banners that have been hung. They’ve also strung electric cables from the main stage to the control box. Last Tuesday, workers were in bucket trucks connecting strings of lights from the top of the courthouse to the tops of some of the buildings around the Square.

“We have crews down there for probably three or four days,” Electric Distribution Manager Jerry Schitter said. “Nobody complains about it. We all know that it’s just part of the job.”

In the weeks leading up to the fest, street department crews clean streets more often than normal. They concentrate on the downtown streets and alleys that will be used during the festival and will take care of the upkeep of those during the event. But they also work on the city’s main thoroughfares.

Crews are mowing grass and weeds in city and state rights of way, picking up litter, trimming trees and freshening up the yellow paint that marks the curbs.

“We want the city to look as good as possible,” Street Commissioner Raymie Eckerle said.

Since last year’s festival, street crews have built and painted 200 wooden barricades and are placing them along streets that will close for the festival. Workers also have placed mesh coverings over 40 storm sewer drains to keep unwanted trash out of the drains and thus out of Patoka River.

They work throughout the festival. Crews get up at 5:30 a.m. each day to run the street sweeper through the fest area. At 7 a.m. crews bring the trash trucks through, to remove all the trash that was left the night before.

“Yep, it’s a lot of work,” Eckerle said. “But it’s for the Strassenfest. We have a lot to be proud of. We want to make sure our community looks good.”

Emergency workers are also out in full force. Firefighters volunteer to hang the banners on the Dubois County Courthouse and wash down the pavement and tables in the beer garden early Saturday and Sunday mornings, and they will be on standby at events including the hot-air balloon race and Sunday’s fireworks finale. They will walk through the festival with the state fire marshal Thursday morning to inspect the carnival rides, booths and stages to make sure they are safe.

The police department will have extra patrols out to help with traffic and crowd control, Assistant Police Chief Nathan Schmitt said. Police officers help at the various parade intersections to keep the parade moving smoothly; auxiliary officers patrol the handicapped-parking area behind City Hall to make sure those spaces are being used by people who need them.

“We have more police officers and auxiliary officers out on the streets,” Schmitt said. “We have a lot of people come in from out of town. We are easily recognizable for people who need to get information.”

City Hall fields more calls and inquiries leading up to and during the festival. Maintenance staff help guide carnival operators to parking locations for their trucks, install flags along the bridges and put up Handicapped Parking signs.

Although the general public may not notice the behind-the-scenes work that city employees put in, the Strassenfest Committee is very aware of it.

“They make the city look good,” Strassenfest Committee Chairman Derrick Bair said. “All the work they put in is a tremendous help. I don’t know what we would do without them.”

Contact Candy Neal at cneal@dcherald.com.




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com