photos by emma black
Hoist a stein, don the lederhosen, grab the nearest wiener dog or just enjoy some beer at this year’s PA Oktoberfest, Friday through Sunday, Sept. 16 to 18. The festival has become a fixture to kick off the fall — organizers boast it’s one of the nation’s top 10 Oktoberfest celebrations.
Festival organizer Tim Holmes promises another enjoyable festival for returning visitors and seasoned veterans alike. According to Holmes, the early ticket sales indicate this year’s festival will bring sizeable crowds to Mohegan Sun Pocono in Plains Twp. With buy-one, get-one free tickets available at Shur Save locations, he said, fans are taking advantage of a bargain.
“Everything is coming together beautifully. Tickets are selling well at Shur Save,” Holmes said. “Once we get beyond Labor Day, people really start thinking about Oktoberfest. We have more than 70 beers, great food vendors and, of course, the award-winning Alpine Wurst and Meat House.”
Alpine is a tradition at PA Oktoberfest since the festival’s inception in 2011. The Honesdale-based sausage maker was awarded multiple medals earlier this year at the DFV-AAMP Quality Competition for Sausage and Ham, juried in part by The German Butchers’ Association. Oktoberfest visitors will have an opportunity to purchase some of Alpine’s gold-medal krainerwurst, bratwurst and Braunschweiger liverwurst as well as other traditional German dishes.
Some of PA Oktoberfest’s visitors are a different, four-legged type of wiener. Many fans return year after year to attend the wiener dog races that have brought smiles to both dachshund owners and spectators. According to Holmes, more than 200 dogs will participate in races throughout the weekend.
“There are a few who have asked to be in extra races; there are more than ever,” Holmes said. “We had a preview at PNC Field with ‘Aug-toberfest’ where 25 of the dogs came up and raced, so they got a little training in this year.”
Colorful and humorous costumes as well as on-field hijinks and mishaps punctuate the wiener dog races. Holmes said they’ve become an integral part of the weekend-long celebration of German beer, food and heritage.
For 2016, Holmes said festival organizers have other “Oktivities” planned, including the return of stein hoisting as well as new competitions from NEPA Cornhole, which hosted its inaugural cornhole tournament at PNC field earlier this summer.
“We contacted them and asked if they’d like to set up shop,” Holmes said. “We’re basically going to have mini tournaments throughout the weekend. We’re not looking for a grand champion or anything. It’s basically going to be eight teams in a mini tournament. They’ll all be playing for new PA Oktoberfest leder-steins. It’s a cool way for them to get engaged. It’s a cool new addition.”
Strong-armed visitors will also get a chance to hold a title for stein-hoisting sponsored by Sam Adams.
“Stein-hoisting competitions have been going on throughout bars and restaurants in Northeast Pennsylvania over the last couple of weeks,” Holmes said. “People are qualifying to participate in the official stein-hoisting competition at Oktoberfest all weekend.”
Sports fans won’t miss out on the big games while touring PA Oktoberfest. Last year’s sports tent is getting a sizeable update for 2016.
“The ESPN/Flying Fish sports and beer tent sits right at the 50-yard line of the wiener dog track,” Holmes said. “The cool thing with that is we introduced the ESPN tent last year with a bunch of TVs so people can watch college football on Saturday and the NFL on Sunday; it’s basically something people watch all weekend. We didn’t have beer last year, but we now have beer, and it’s a great addition from Flying Fish.”
While the weather forecast can sometimes put a damper on festivities, this year is shaping up for mild weather. Regardless, PA Oktoberfest’s 50,000 square feet of tent will keep guests out of the sun or rain.
Alp horns will punctuate moments throughout the festival, bringing a traditional flair to the atmosphere, and festival favorite Romy returns with traditional music and an upbeat, crowd-energizing attitude. PA Oktoberfest will mirror Munich’s own, original Oktoberfest. The Munich festival kicks off Sept. 17, and Holmes said organizers are happy to be in sync with the festival’s German cousin. Oktoberfest fans from throughout the region have begun to recognize PA Oktoberfest as a true companion to the original festival, according to Holmes.
“There’s always a lot of flurry and frenzy online as it gets closer,” Holmes said. “We’re selling more tickets in stores than we did last year, which was the first time we did buy-one, get-one. People now know that’s a value and are buying tickets out there. People are tuned into it for sure.”
Returning visitors are welcome to bring mugs and pitchers from past PA Oktoberfests — even heirlooms are welcome.
“People can walk in with steins and pitchers from previous years. They can’t bring one full of beer, that’s for sure, but they’re welcome to bring an empty one,” Holmes said. “Some folks come and bring old steins their grandparents brought over from Germany. It’s really cool.”
Other PA Oktoberfest special events include the Lederhosen 5K race Sunday, the Crystal Lederhosen homebrew competition award ceremony Saturday and entertainment throughout the weekend on the main stage.
Holmes said visitors are encouraged to plan ahead for safe rides. PA Oktoberfest has partnered with Uber to provide a first ride up to $15 free with the code PA2016.
“We’re looking forward to another great year celebrating Oktoberfest right here in Northeast PA.,” Holmes said. “Every year, we see between 20,000 and 35,000 thousand people, and we want to continue the legacy of food, beer, wiener dog races and everything folks have come to love from the festival. It’s truly a unique event for our area, and we are delighted that people have made it a tradition. We want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable time.”
— tucker hottes