CINCINNATI — For the first time in Bockfest's 30-year history, Bockfest Hall will be located at Findlay Playground. While event organizers said the location will give them plenty of room for outdoor activities, some community figures are pushing back against drinking alcohol in the park during the event.
Over-The-Rhine neighbors say drinking alcohol is typically prohibited in the park. In fact, it was the open use of drugs and alcohol that at one point kept the park closed for almost two years.
"This situation is indicative of a sign of discrimination, racism in the city which we know we have a major problem with," said Maurice Wagoner, the president of the Over-the-Rhine Community Council.
Wagoner pointed out that Black people were once criminalized for drinking in the park.
"When it comes to Black folks enjoying the park and enjoying it like they want to, they get ticketed and chased out the park," Wagoner said.
Critics said that because Bockfest is so rooted in German culture, it likely would not appeal to African Americans who could otherwise feel alienated from the event. However, Steve Hampton, a Bockfest organizer and the executive director of the Brewing Heritage Trail, said the event is free and open to everyone.
"Bockfest has been an Over-the-Rhine festival for over 30 years. We’ve always celebrated the community. This neighborhood has changed a lot over the years. It’s got a lot of history, and so we celebrate part of it, but we also celebrate the folks here today,” Hampton said. “We invite everyone to come and check it out."
Hampton went on to say that organizers have taken steps to make sure attendees of all ages are safe even though drinking will be allowed.
"Everything we do here is legal,” Hampton said. “We've got security. We've got very hard limits on where you can take your alcohol and that kind of stuff. It's meant to be safe and fun and we want to be good neighbors."
WCPO reached out to the Cincinnati Recreation Commission for comment but did not get a response at the time of reporting.
The Brewing Heritage Trail says that 30,000 people are expected to come to the event. Organizers recommend attendees park in other parts of the city and walk, use the streetcar or hop on a free shuttle that will be available in the evening.
Monique John covers gentrification for WCPO 9. She is part of our Report For America donor-supported journalism program. Read more about RFA here.
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