Wunderbar! Inaugural Oktoberfest Lawrence coming this weekend

If you missed out on last month's Oktoberfest at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, you're in luck: This weekend promises even more German food, beer and merrymaking when the inaugural Oktoberfest Lawrence takes place.

The Chamber and Downtown Lawrence Inc. are teaming up to host the event, slated for 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Lawrence Public Library Civic Plaza, 707 Vermont St.

Sally Zogry, director of Downtown Lawrence Inc., says the idea was originally discussed more than two years ago, when she and DLI board member Mike Logan considered the possibility of a fall event with a cultural element. Oktoberfest, she says, stuck out to her because of our state’s widespread and celebrated German heritage — “you gotta have an Oktoberfest in Kansas,” Zogry says.

Some of you may be wondering how the St. John celebration, which was held late last month and will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, factors into this. (It doesn't.)

“That’s such a longstanding and very loved event by not only the St. John community but the Lawrence community as well,” Zogry says. “That’s why we wanted to space ours a month apart, so we wouldn’t be seen as competition for them.”

Zogry is expecting about 2,000 people at the inaugural Oktoberfest Lawrence, which will be held “rain or shine” at the library plaza.

From the looks of the online schedule, it’ll include all the basic tenets of the traditional German celebration: a biergarten tent sponsored by Crown Automotive with around a dozen different varieties of beer plus wine, alpine music from the Happy Wanderers and Festhaus-Musikanten, and a Samuel Adams Stein Hoisting Competition in which contestants battle it out to see who can hold a stein filled with 32 ounces of beer the longest without their poor arm falling off.

(That’s an exaggeration, obviously, but 32 ounces — well, let’s just say I never could complete a pull-up in gym class. Strong people, take note: Winning this contest earns you a chance to compete for the national championship and a trip to Munich Oktoberfest in 2016.)

For those under 21, Oktoberfest Lawrence boasts plenty of family-friendly fun, from a strolling stilt-walker to a vaudeville show to face painting.

Then, of course, there’s the food. The Burger Stand, Fine Thyme Food, Free State Brewing Co., Leeway Franks and Juice Stop will all be on hand with a variety of authentic German (or German-inspired) treats for sale.

Meat lovers should have plenty of options, as you might expect — no shortage of bierocks, sausages and schnitzel here — but Zogry says vendors tried to incorporate more than a few vegetarian options as well.

The Burger Stand is offering a veggie burger, Fine Thyme has a local root vegetable goulash pretzel bierock on the menu, and, this being Oktoberfest, German potato salad will abound.

Zogry already has her sights set on Fine Thyme’s German chocolate cake crepe.

“It’s got a chocolate batter and a chocolate filling, with coconut and caramel,” she says. “My mouth is watering just thinking about it.”

Tickets for Oktoberfest Lawrence range from $10 to $20 (children under 12 get in free) and can be purchased in person at The Chamber, Downtown Lawrence Inc., The Granada Theater, Phoenix Gallery, Weaver's department store or at the door the day of the event.

For more information, including a full schedule of events and how to purchase tickets online, visit downtownlawrence.com.


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