A little more than a century ago during World War I, a large photograph of the German kaiser was burned at the intersection of Norfolk Avenue and Fourth Street.
This weekend, just a few blocks over, it will be quite a different scene, with Norfolk celebrating its German heritage during the Norfolk Oktoberfest Family Festival.
Filling a September gap after the LaVitsef Time celebration disbanded in 2007, Norfolk’s Oktoberfest has become a fall highlight, drawing a huge crowd and featuring activities for the entire family in a relatively short number of years.
We’d like nothing more than to see it continue to grow in popularity.
Set to take place Friday, Sept. 20, and Saturday, Sept. 21, in downtown Norfolk, the event has grown dramatically since its beginning in 2012.
“It’s going to be the best one ever,” said Jarad Dahlkoetter, events director for the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce.
Granted, we hear that about almost every event, from county fairs to tractor pulls. But the numbers bear fruit to Dahlkoetter’s boast.
The festival’s first year had 32 sponsors and attracted 500 visitors. Dahlkoetter said this year the festival has 77 sponsors and is expecting around 5,000 people each day of the two-day event.
That’s not including those who also take in the Lions Club parade and the Riverpoint Arts Festival the same weekend.
There were some who initially scoffed at the idea of Oktoberfest in Norfolk, but the attendance for Oktoberfest will have grown more than tenfold in just seven years. That’s an impressive feat.
In addition to the more than 30 Oktoberfest events planned throughout the two-day-duration, multiple activities not related to Oktoberfest, such as the aforementioned Norfolk Lions Club parade and Riverpoint Arts Festival, are planned in the city, as well.
Norfolk’s Oktoberfest is a celebration of the fall harvest and the area’s German heritage. The official Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, began this week, and the chamber follows that tradition by hosting Norfolk’s festival at the end of September.
While it still is a bit jarring to see the German flags lining Norfolk Avenue, it does serve as a reminder of how things have changed — for the better.
So here’s to “the best one ever.”