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Oktoberfest ushers in autumn

BY ELENA BRUESS | SEPTEMBER 25, 2014 5:00 AM

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With autumn having arrived this month and October just around the corner, Iowa City is preparing for changing colors and cooler temperatures. While children start to pick out their Halloween costumes and students buckle down for midterms, North Side Iowa City looks forward to something a little different.

On Saturday, the annual Oktoberfest will begin. Bringing with it games, beer, food, and a good number of German festivities, the celebration will go from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Originally BrewFest, the event evolved into a larger, more family-friendly festival when the Iowa City Downtown District got involved.

“Four years ago, we [the IC Downtown District] and Doug Alberhasky of John’s Grocery got together and started to plan this larger event,” said Betsy Potter, the Downtown District operations director. “North Side is part of downtown’s jurisdiction, so of course we were all about expanding to a larger Oktoberfest. This year, we’re spreading it down Market Street and adding sections for children and watching the Iowa game.”

Originating in 1810 in Munich, Germany, Oktoberfest is the largest fun fair event held worldwide. For 16 days, from late September to early October, millions of people all over the world will join to celebrate. Visitors can participate in amusement rides, games, German food, and of course, hundreds upon thousands of liters of beer.

In Iowa City, the North Side Oktoberfest is focusing on the cultural and traditional aspect of the festival.

“Hamburg Inn, Linn Street Café, and John’s Grocery are providing the food on Saturday, and the vendors will be preparing more German-style food,” Potter said. “We’re even going to have polka bands and a costume contest. We’re really trying to emphasize the old customs.”

Beer

The Iowa City BrewFest, in which area breweries brought in samples for the community to taste, has been an early autumn tradition on the North Side for 19 years.

Leaning back in his chair in his office, Doug Alberhasky, the owner of John’s Grocery, smiles at the mention of beer and the festival.

“I mean, when you say beer, you say John’s,” Alberhasky said and laughed. “We’ll have about 12 different local breweries coming for the BrewFest and a lot from out of town, such as Great Divide from Colorado.”

The festival will no longer have drink tickets but a charge at the door.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a drink-all-you-can thing,” Alberhasky said. “The point of the BrewFest is trying different samples and seeing what you like. No one should be expecting some drunk party. I always say you have to drink for the taste, not for the effect.”

That said, BrewFest has a new “Designated Driving” initiative this year, in which Big Grove Brewery will participate. The Solon brewery will provide a bus taking patrons from North Liberty to Oktoberfest throughout Saturday.

“We want safe roads and a fun day for the community,” Alberhasky said.

Food

This year at Oktoberfest, only three vendors will participate in doling out food. Working with more traditional foods, Hamburg Inn, 214 N. Linn St., is providing its own version of German food for the festival-goers this Saturday.

With the hustle and bustle of Hamburg Inn’s lunchtime rush sounding from above, Seth Dudley, the general manager at the restaurant, noted the Hamburg’s part in the festival.

“We’re bringing Amana bratwursts, sauerkraut, pretzel rolls with mustard cheese sauce, whatever we can make with what we have here,” he said. “That’s about how traditional German we go, but it’s still great to participate again. We’ve been working with Doug [Alberhasky] since the beginning of Oktoberfest.”

With the help of John’s and Linn Street Café, organizers said the food will be more streamlined this year, instead of featuring numerous separate food vendors.

“We felt like it was diluting the festival,” Dudley said. “We want more about the traditional aspect and the German culture this year.”

Kids and SodaFest

A major component of Oktoberfest is the Kids Section on Market Street. Since the creation of Oktoberfest, the event has promoted a family-friendly festival.

“We’re trying to move past just drinking for adults and make it fun for everyone,” Alberhasky said. “This year, Steve Weeks, the well-known children’s musician, is coming, and Dave Panther, the owner of Hamburg, is going to do some stuff; he’s also a clown.”

Along with the games and activities, the Kids Section will participate in SodaFest.

“SodaFest is Brewfest for kids,” Potter said. “We want them to have a good time, too, so we get the kids to sample different sodas and get into the atmosphere of the festival.”

Also included in the Kids Section of Oktoberfest is the Mini Dance Marathon, headed by University of Iowa student morale captains. From 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., children have the chance to dance along to DJ Juan’s music in support of Dance Marathon, an organization supporting pediatric cancer patients and their families at the UI Children’s Hospital.

“We’re really trying to raise awareness for the cause, but we always love helping out the community and the festival in a new way,” said Emma Boehmer, the development director for Dance Marathon. “We’re bringing coloring pages and fun activities, too, and information for anyone interested in the program.”

Along with fundraising, Oktoberfest will donate all its proceeds from the festival to the Children’s Museum and the American Heart Association.

“Last year, we were able to raise $20,000 and donate,” Alberhasky said. “We’re hoping to continue that and bring in more money in this year. Not only is a good time, but it’s a good cause.”


North Side Oktoberfest
Where: North Side Iowa City
When: Saturday
What: Oktoberfest
Tickets: General Admission, $30 (may arrive at noon); Brewmaster, $50 (may arrive at 11 a.m.)


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