The Coast News Group
Children from the San Elijo Hills Association’s Oktoberfest enjoy various games and rides at this year’s festival including pumping carving and decorating, a Ferris wheel, and bungee jumping. The event is private and for residents only. Photo by Stephanie Stang
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San Elijo Hills’ Oktoberfest in San Marcos draws record crowd

SAN MARCOS — The annual Oktoberfest in San Elijo Hills in San Marcos proved to be the community’s most popular event yet.

Although 2,000 people attended the festival every year, folks say it still has a small community feel.

Alpana Patel says she brings her family every year and loves seeing all of her neighbors in one place. “It’s a great way to run into people.”

San Elijo resident Mike Adams says he enjoys bringing all five of his children to the fair because of “all the rides, all the fun, all the food, great for the community. All the kids can hang out with their friends.”

About 2,300 people live in the San Elijo Hills community in San Marcos, which features hiking trails, parks, and three local schools within walking distance of a development built around a town square. The San Elijo Hills Association organizes events throughout the year like Octoberfest. It is strictly for residents only and requires proof of residency for admittance since it is paid for with homeowner association dues.

Most of the residents from San Elijo Hills walk to the festival or the children run with excitement. Along with his wife, Adams jokingly says his kids usually head straight for the ice cream, then apple streusel, and finally the pretzels but skip the brats and salad while playing with their friends.

“It’s more community oriented than anything I’ve worked for in North County,” says San Elijo Hills onsite Community Director Liz McCardle. “I think that’s the whole concept of building around the town square and having all these wonderful homes around it, incorporating a shop-local type of feel along with the schools close by.”

“There is just an incredible sense of community here,” realtor Ed Philbrick said. “I think it’s an amazing value compared to other surrounding communities. I mean with this event for example, you probably have an event per month when you look at it, and the events are pretty elaborate.  There is a lot going on. Here you have a climbing wall, a (Ferris) wheel, food, beer (beer garden).  There’s always something going on in San Elijo and so it’s hard to complain about the value that you are getting. People aren’t always happy with HOAs but that’s not really the case here.”

All of the food is free and beer and wine is provided for adults with identification. There’s also ice cream, face painting, and pumpkin carving for the children. McCardle hires carnival companies and caterers to supply the rides and concessions.

In the years past it was held on the town square but it was recently moved to the lower softball field of San Elijo Hills Park after it gained popularity.

“It’s pretty well attended,” Philbrick said. “It’s changed over the years. I would see 15 people that I know. Now, I see more people but at a slower pace with more people attending. Sometimes people are near and dear to their grandkids and then sometimes we have folks that are new to the community. So, I have seen a change to the event.”

As San Elijo Hill has grown, so too have the businesses. Recently there have been some new developments on the square.

Real estate developer Ambient Communities recently announced a new brewery, The Lost Abbey, based out of Cardiff will be opening soon on the square. McCardle says the permit is in and it plans to open at the end of the month.

“Some of the original business that moved in didn’t do so well,” Philbrick said. “We had a pet food store that didn’t make it. The businesses were subsided and didn’t make it. But I don’t think that’s going on now. I think it will be exciting when it’s finished. There’s signing up now for the last phase which will be office and more medical buildings and little more retail. It would be nice if we could two more anchor restaurants in there.”

Philbrick says despite California law, renters are sometimes left out of the loop when it comes to neighborhood events. McCardle says they do their best to distribute a community newsletter that highlights all of the upcoming events.

The tree lighting, the second largest event in San Elijo, is coming up in December on the town square.  The association tries to hold an event every few months like moves in the park, outdoor concerts, and Easter egg hunts. Unfortunately, McCardle says every year the festival does have to turn people away if they can’t show proper residency identification. The projected budget for this year’s festival was not disclosed.

Editors Note: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Liz McCardle and overstated the contributions of an event planning company. McCardle plans the entire event. The Coast News Group regrets the confusion.