Friday, January 31, 2014

Adventures in Oktoberfest: International Edition

Photo: Evangelos-Athanassios Mylonas 

Introducing Wild World of World Wide Oktoberfest

As I've stated in previous posts, like this one and this one, I managed to find a job as an International Event Manager and procure a German residence permit right before my Danish residence permit was due to expire. It wasn't exactly the type of position I had hoped for since a large part of me going back to school for my master's degree was to help me transition out of event management. But beggars certainly can't be choosers and this job would help keep me on the continent of Europe, even if I wasn't in the country of Denmark.

So what exactly would I be doing? Well, the short answer is managing Oktoberfest events in Aarhus, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Stockholm, London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Amsterdam. I would travel around Europe like a circus carney, filling people up with ok beer and bad food. Needless to say, my mother was not excited about my new job and said, "so you got another degree to become a beer wench?" Thanks mom.

A more in-depth description of my responsibilities would be that I was charged with helping my boss C, develop his organization into a true production company and help him expand his business in the English market. C was a former financier who left the banking world to live out his dream of building an Oktoberfest empire and knew more about money than event production. 

When C contacted me for an interview, small alarm bells went off when I couldn't find any information about his company. But my doubts were assuaged when we met and I found out that the company was basically just him. This was his first attempt at expansion and I would be his first full-time employee. Any other doubts that developed were quickly snuffed out with the belief that getting into a company right at the beginning would be the perfect opportunity for me to put my mark on it. I could see several areas I could improve and looked forward to shaping his company into one that was more efficient and productive. 

First stop, Aarhus

Before C would give me a contract, he had me work a test event in Aarhus. I would be paid for my efforts and if we both agreed that things went well, I would be hired full-time. He paid for the transportation and hotel accommodations and I would pay for my own food when I wasn't on duty. I thought it sounded fair and met him in Vojens, Denmark. There, we would load up the trailer trucks and drive to Aarhus together. Also in for the ride was the company intern, Julie. When discussing the trial run, C mentioned that another person would be working me. But when I asked about my partner, C said that they changed their mind. He added that they were German and Germans didn't like to work. More alarm bells went off. And again I ignored them. Stupid girl.

All in all, the first event was pretty easy. C had hired a group of gentlemen from Poland that did most of the hard labor, including setting up the benches and tables, and building up the bar and kitchen. Professional builders constructed the tent and Julie handled the tickets. I was put in charge of the gift shop and was responsible for the inventory and making sure the girls didn't steal. Poor planning on C's part meant that Aarhus Oktoberfest coincided with a major music festival featuring Alicia Keys. Also, he missed the "Oktober" in Oktoberfest and this event took place in July. Suffice to say we had few customers. He still broke even, but I was surprised since it looked like we never had more than 100 people in a tent with a capacity for almost 2,000. 

The event ran from Thursday to Saturday with breakdown all day Sunday. When the last guests on Saturday left, C thanked me for a job well-done and said I could take it easy the next day. Now, I've learned the ropes of production in MTV and there, everyone is expected to participate in de-rig and breakdown. So staying in my hotel while everyone else is working hard didn't sit well with me and I still showed up Sunday morning to see if I could help. C was genuinely surprised when he saw me and asked what I was doing. I explained that I've always helped during the breakdown of events and wanted to see if I could lend a hand. He laughed at my eagerness and told me to either go shopping or go back to the hotel since the crew had everything under control. He even gave me a few extra kroner for my efforts. 

I spent so little time on site that I was able to use the same ticket for the bus back to my hotel. The next day we packed up and I was put on a train back to Copenhagen. "I guess this won't be too bad," I thought as the train swayed softly, making its way through Denmark. Unfortunately, my thought was premature as the following cities would soon show. 

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