By BOB KECSKEMETY
The City of Oakland Park will be holding its 7th annual Oktoberfest on Friday and Saturday, September 30 (5 p.m. to 11 p.m.) and October 1 (1 p.m. to 11 p.m.) at Jaco Pastorius Park on North Dixie Highway and N.E.38 Street. Oakland Park’s Oktoberfest is not only the largest in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, but it has also become one of the most popular in Florida.
“Everything about our event is as authentic as possible, from the food and the beer to the bands performing traditional Oktoberfest party music,” said Siegi Constantine, Executive Director of Oakland Park Main Street. “We fly the Oktoberfest beer in from Munich so we have the real stuff. Our event has always been branded as an Authentic Bavarian Oktoberfest so everything about it is authentic as possible.”
Ambry Restaurant (located on Commercial Boulevard) will operate the Bavarian-style “Biergarten” at Oktoberfest offering a selection of popular German favorites such as bratwurst, knockwurst, sauerkraut, Black Forrest Cherry Cake, German potato salad and apple strudel along with a selection of German wines. “We try to stick with authentic German food,” said Constantine, “but we have loosened it a little bit. We now have chicken fingers and roasted corn because not everybody likes German food – especially kids. But we do not allow hot dogs or hamburgers.”
Large tents will be set up to replicate the authentic atmosphere of a Bavarian village celebration including a stage and dance floor.
“We have increased our entertainment budget to book several of the best authentic Oktoberfest bands in Florida,” said Constantine.
Included in the entertainment schedule will be performances by Edelweiss Schuhplattlers, a children’s dance troupe, and the Original Auerhahn Schuhplattlers, an adult dance group. The musicians scheduled to fill the air with drinking songs, original oompah and polka dance music until closing each evening include the popular Oktoberfest bands Euro Express and the Swinging Bavarians.
“This is our seventh year and we started out with maybe 1,500 people,” said Constantine. “Last year, we drew up to 10,000 people.
Last year I insisted that we should hold it over two days and it was a great success.”
Through the years, the Oakland Park Oktoberfest has added additional events to make the huge party more fun for the whole family. “I thought, what could we do differently from everybody else?” said Constantine. “Dachshunds are Bavarian dogs so we have a Dachshund race every year called the ‘Dachshund Dash.’ The first year we had 30 some dogs and last year we had 57 of them.”
Registration for the Dachshund Dash is currently taking place at the Central Bark Doggie Daycare center on N. Dixie Highway.
Some of the other events planned are a Beer Keg Roll and a Beer Stein Race where participants loose points for every drop of beer they spill while racing. The popular Apple Strudel Eating Contest is also returning again this year. “There’s this little kid and he started with us about 5 years ago and I’m sure he’s going to win this year. He always ends up with the apple pastry all over his face.”
The first Oktoberfest was a celebration by the people of Munich to honor the marriage of the popular Prince Ludwig and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in October, 1810, and became an annual event to celebrate their anniversary. About 8,000 people attended that first Oktoberfest – last year almost 10,000,000 people attended making it the largest single festival in Europe.
Beer is a major component of Oktoberfest and only beers brewed in Munich (located in the Bavarian region of Germany) are served at Oktoberfest. Many of the breweries brew a special beer that can only be obtained during Oktoberfest. This beer has a higher alcohol and sugar content making it 2% stronger. Oktoberfest has been held at the same location for 200 years and has only been cancelled 24 times in its history due to war, disease or other emergencies.
Every year, the traditional festival opening is done by a twelve gun salute and the tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest beer at 12:00 noon by the Mayor of Munich with the cry “O’ zapft is!” (“It’s tapped!” in the Austro-Bavarian language). The mayor then gives the first beer to the Minister-President of the State of Bavaria. Over 7-million liters (that’s 1,849,204 gallons) of beer get served during the 16 to 18 day festival.
The first Oktoberfest lasted 12 days, starting the first weekend in October. However, the schedule was changed to September, allowing the festival to end on the first weekend in October to take full advantage of the longer and warmer days of September.
“The reason we do Oktoberfest,” concluded Constantine, “is that Main Street is about economic development and we partner with the City of Oakland Park in that we’re tasked with marketing the downtown area and promoting the downtown. One of the ways we do it is to bring people downtown. But Oktoberfest has been growing and growing and it has become the number one signature event for the city.”