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.
Sometimes, life throws some pretty tough decisions at you. Especially where food is concerned.
The solution to all my sadly unfulfilled cravings for barbecue and creme brulee at the same time is almost here, you guys.
Lawrence’s new food truck collaboration, Fork to Fender, is slated to open “early next week” at 1447 W. 23rd St., co-owner Julia Ireland has confirmed.
Ireland — who also owns the Torched Goodness creme brulee truck and cart with her husband, Eric — has four local vendors along for the ride with her: Drasko’s, The Purple Carrot, Wilma’s Real Good Food and Fine Thyme Food. Together, they’re forming what Ireland calls a “community food hub” at the spot formerly occupied by Granddaddy’s BBQ in southwest Lawrence.
Here’s how it’ll work, at least initially: Fork to Fender’s restaurant will serve a menu of mostly Torched Goodness (which, in addition to its creme brulee, will also branch out into savory offerings) with a handful of items from The Purple Carrot. Because the other vendors can’t commit to kitchen duty every day, there might be one night a week — Wilma’s on Saturdays, for instance — when a different truck owner will take over the Fork to Fender kitchen with their menu.
In addition, certain days of the week will see different trucks parked outside the restaurant. When the weather cools down, business will move inside.
If you’re wondering what this schedule might look like, Ireland didn’t give out specific dates but says it’ll all be “pretty widely publicized ahead of time” on Fork to Fender’s Facebook page.
Despite its brick-and-mortar location, Fork to Fender’s restaurant will remain “true to street food” while offering “something for every dietary choice or restriction,” Ireland says.
“It’s an eclectic menu,” she says. “Everything will be made in-house, from scratch. We really tried to cover everything.”
Right now, that includes comfort-food classics like chili, meatloaf, potpies and pasta dishes, plus more “unusual” creations like chipotle artichoke dip, spinach balls (think meatballs minus the meat) and something called “cheeseburger pie.”
The Irelands have also recently secured an alcohol permit, which means plenty of Free State Brewing Co. on tap, plus other craft beers, wines and a few specialty drinks. And, in the winter, Mexican hot chocolate — no alcohol in that one.
The storefront will also sell favorites from the farmers market year-round, including selections from Lecompton-based Kroeger’s Country Meats, Lawrence’s Fresh Coffee Roastery and Mr. Bacon BBQ.
“It’s been a learning curve,” Ireland says of her “community food hub,” but she’s been encouraged by the folks who have stopped in during renovations.
There’s nothing like Fork to Fender along the bustling restaurant hotspot along 23rd Street, they tell her.
There’s nothing like it in all of Lawrence, really. At least for now.
Fork to Fender hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, though Ireland says that’s subject to change. We’ll keep an eye out to see when the place officially opens — hopefully soon, because now I’ve got a serious hankering for cheeseburger pie.