Prost! Est ist Oktoberfest!

By: Collin Frazier

frazierc@findlay.edu

Gehst du aufs Oktoberfest?

Heritage can bring people together and give them a sense of pride. The city of Findlay will be holding their annual Oktoberfest on Sept. 25, celebrating German heritage. One important organization involved in this is the Hancock Historical Museum, who explained what exactly this festival is.

“Oktoberfest is a celebration downtown Findlay that celebrates our Northwest Ohio German heritage,” said Hancock Historical Museum Special Events and Communications Coordinator Lauren Etler.

“We have a strong German heritage, especially in Hancock County. We took the festival over in 2018, and it’s a great fundraiser for us as a nonprofit organization. It just was really started by a committee that was driven and excited to share our local heritage with the community.”

Of course, COVID-19 had an impact on last year, replacing the one-day festival with a one-week celebration. Needless to say, the decision was not made easily, but there were some positives to this celebration.

“It was a difficult decision for us to make but it was definitely the right one just to keep everyone safe,” Etler commented. “We actually found out that it was a great way to involve more members of the community, so [we had] different restaurants that don’t normally get to necessarily take place in the festival downtown. We were able to establish a lot of great partners, [and] we still had a really great community turn out and support for that event. It was different, but it kept our awareness and our name out there so people could get excited for the festival this year.”

Of course, nothing beats the one-day festival on Main Street.

“It feels great, we’re very excited [to be back],” Etler proclaimed “We’ve taken a lot of extra precautions just to try to keep people safe. We’ve extended the festival another block this year to the South so it’s on Main Street all the way now to Hardin Street, so we have a lot of space for people to socially distance, we have a lot more seats for people to sit with their group and relax. We’re taking a lot of extra steps as far as offering hand sanitizers all around the festival at certain places during the festival. Our kids area will have a lot of access to hand sanitizers, and then we will have masks available at the admissions if people choose to wear them if that makes them feel better.”

Social distancing and hand sanitizers are not the only new feature to this year’s festival. Expect new and old favorites this year.

“We have some great food vendors this year, [but] we do have a few new ones,” Etler explained. “Lyle’s Crepes is a new food vendor, we’re gonna have some old staples like Schmidt’s Sausage Haus that people get really excited about. Saums Market out of Carey is coming and they are known as Ohio’s original best bratwurst so they are the official powers of Oktoberfest, Findlay. We have I think we have ten food vendors in total– nine to 10.”

Of course, what’s Oktoberfest without some music?

“As far as music we have a new musician,” Etler continued. “We have Duane Malanoski Orchestra– he’s actually really popular and he’s toured with some pretty big bands. So, he’s a new musician and he starts at 2:00 or 2:30. We have Anthony Culkar and the International Sound Machine for the last half of the evening, but he has been at Oktoberfest before.”

This event is not limited to adults, however. It welcomes families, too.

“There will be a kids area from 2:00 to 7:00,” Education Coordinator Deb Wickerham added. “There will be 17 different stations set up with lots of activities, some of them are based on German heritage. We have seven or eight organizations that are also here to do activities with the children, so it’s from 2:00 to 7:00. And so, we wanted to also make this a family event where it’s not just for the beer drinking and the contest and stuff. It’s for families to come, too.”

Above all, Oktoberfest is a chance for fellow Hancock County residents to come together and appreciate both the city of Findlay and their German roots.

“I think the Findlay community really looks forward to [Oktoberfest] every year,” Etler commented. “We really try to be a community partner and advertise you know that it is a day-long festival, but it is downtown. [So you can] support your downtown businesses and go shopping. You can come in and out of the festival so people can visit our downtown restaurants. The sidewalks, we keep those open so people can still walk up and down. They can still visit their favorite local restaurants.”

“I hope that it brings the Findlay community together and we always get a really good showing just to support us as a nonprofit,” Etler continued. “We have a lot of people that back up the festival that help us. We have a huge volunteer base every year and they put in a lot of time for us and just to keep the festival running, so I think it’s important to the Findlay community. I think it’s a great way to share our local history and our German heritage from what Hancock County mostly is made out of.”

Gates open at 2:00 p.m. and close at 10:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for people 21 and over, and $3 for people under 21. However, the festival is looking for volunteers for later shifts, and volunteers receive a free t-shirt and admission to the event. For more information about volunteering or Oktoberfest for this event, please visit https://oktoberfestfindlay.com/.

Featured photo courtesy the Hancock Co. Historical Museum.

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