It’s time to break out the lederhosen and dirndl.
The Norfolk Oktoberfest Family Festival is set to take place Friday, Sept. 20, and Saturday, Sept. 21, at the corner of Seventh Street and Norfolk Avenue in downtown Norfolk. The event is organized by the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce and presented by Bank First.
Jarad Dahlkoetter, events director for the Norfolk chamber, said the annual celebration has grown dramatically since its beginning in 2012, and he expects the eighth year to be even bigger and better.
“It’s going to be the best one ever,” Dahlkoetter said.
The festival’s first year had 32 sponsors and required 39 kegs and 59 cases of beer to serve the 500 in attendance. Dahlkoetter said this year the festival has 77 sponsors and is on track to serve 66 kegs and more than 200 cases of beer to the expected 5,000 people it will draw each day of the two-day event.
There will be plenty of fun — for beer drinkers and nondrinkers alike — at the festival. More than 30 Oktoberfest events are planned throughout the two-day-duration, and multiple activities not related to Oktoberfest, such as the Lion’s Club Parade, are planned in the city, as well.
“It’s just a really busy weekend for Norfolk,” Dahlkoetter said.
Friday’s Oktoberfest events will begin when the gates and “biergarden” open at 4 p.m. Highlights for the afternoon include a performance by Angie Kriz and the Polka Tunes, which will begin at 4:30 p.m., and the tapping of the keg at 5:30 p.m.
Divots will be the featured brewery, providing the Oktoberfest beer, and Heartland Beverage will be the premier beer vendor for the event, providing eight different canned options and 12 tap items, Dahlkoetter said.
“All of the items on tap are either German or Oktoberfest-style of beer,” he said. “There will be a lot of different things to try and sample.”
A bucket pong tournament will begin at 6 p.m. Friday, followed by entertainment by Back Road Spirits at 7:30 p.m., a teen dance at 8 p.m., and the women’s and men’s steinholding competition beginning at 8:30 p.m.
The Black Water Band will begin playing at 9 p.m.
As it has in years past, the chamber also will be utilizing the services of Norfolk Checker Cab Co. to provide free rides home from the event until 2 a.m. on both nights of the festival.
“We like to provide that safe environment for people to get home,” Dahlkoetter said.
A community yoga session will kick off Saturday’s events at 8:30 a.m. The biergarden will open at noon with a senior and veterans happy hour running until 3 p.m.
A drumline competition and inflatables, both at 1 p.m., will be among the family-friendly Saturday events. A rad tour is set to begin at 1:30 p.m., and other family-friendly events on deck for Saturday include Big Wheel races at 2 p.m., wiener dog races at 4 p.m. and a cornhole tournament at 6 p.m.
Sheelytown Polka Band and Leo Lonnie Polka are set to play during the day on Saturday, as well.
The Nebraska vs. Illinois game will be broadcast on the 20-foot LED mega screen at 7 p.m. and the men’s and women’s steinholding finals will take place at halftime.
“Eight minutes is the time to beat for men, and about five minutes for women,” Dahlkoetter said.
The Rude Band will close out the celebration with music beginning around 9 p.m., and free cab rides will be offered again until 2 a.m.
Food throughout the weekend will be supplied by Taylor Made Catering and Iglesia Evangelica, both of which will be offering German selections on their menus. Divots also will provide food.
Norfolk’s Oktoberfest is a celebration of the fall harvest and the area’s German heritage. The official Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, begins on Sept. 16; the chamber follows that tradition by hosting Norfolk’s festival at the end of September.
Dahlkoetter said it has been exciting to watch how the celebration has grown. He added that some groups now have begun to plan their class reunions and other gatherings around the event, and the organizers are willing to work with groups who have opted to plan their gatherings around the weekend celebration.
Admission to the event is free. A full schedule can be found at norfolkoktoberfest.com.
“I’m just really excited to bring the community together for a fun weekend,” Dahlkoetter said. “It’s the changing of the seasons, a time for the community to come together to celebrate our heritage and the harvest.”