Oktoberfest

This shot from 2019 shows crowds flocking to Oktoberfest activities in Norfolk. Locals are happy the event is back after its postponement due to the COVID pandemic.

Norfolkans have a chance to celebrate German tradition at this year's Oktoberfest on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24 and 25.

The gate opens at 4 p.m. on Friday, with the blessing of the beer keg officially marking the start of festivities. Competitions abound over the two days, from steinholding to dancing to cornhole. Bands will entertain on both days, with biergardens and winegardens available for adults. The Husker volleyball match will be featured on a "mega screen" at 7 p.m. Although there will be a bouncehouse and other activities for children, at 10 p.m. both nights the event will turn into a 21-and-over space.

Saturday's events continue with the biergarden and polka music, with a cornhole tournament at 2 p.m. The Husker football game at Michigan State will be shown on the "mega screen" at 6 p.m., following a tailgate. Country music singer Luke Mills will perform from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. Free cab rides home will be offered both nights.

Oktoberfest celebrations will take place at the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce parking lot on Seventh Street, with parking available throughout downtown. It is a tradition brought back since its postponement last year because of COVID precautions, said Austen Hagood, the president and CEO of the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce.

"It lets the town get together in a fun social setting, with a lot of music and food," he said.

Authenticity beats at the heart of the event. Local vendors such as Divots, Uncle Jarrol's and Taylor Made Catering will be selling standard meals as well as German food, and any adult wearing a Bavarian dirndl (a traditional German dress) or lederhosen (leather German trousers) can get a free beverage.

Combining with Oktoberfest this year is a fall festival celebrating downtown Norfolk, with those events starting Thursday, Sept. 23, and lasting until Sunday, Sept. 26. Some stores on the Riverpoint will have sales, although the main attraction is the 41st annual Lions Club Parade on Saturday at 10 a.m.

Jim Marr, a 26-year member of the club, has been inducted as grand marshal. So far, there are 19 bands and 67 entries participating in the theme of "Living the Dream," parade co-chair Gary Johnson said.

The route starts at the intersection of Fourth Street and Elm Avenue, where it will then go south to Madison Avenue before turning west to Fifth Street and back north to Walnut Avenue. Band and parade judges will assess their respective participants and hand out the following awards: Best Use of Theme, Most Unusual and Best Overall Appeal.

The Masonic Family will host its 32nd annual pancake feed on Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Masonic Center, 907 W. Norfolk Ave. Tickets are available from any Eastern Star or Mason members or at the door.

Festivities stretch to Sunday morning with more flapjacks with a pancake feed and fly-in at the Norfolk Regional Airport from 8 to 11 a.m. Guests can eat biscuits and gravy, omelets and pancakes as they learn about flight education opportunities in Norfolk. They also can talk to pilots and look at the aircraft on display. The Experimental Aircraft Association chapter 918 is "fundraising for youth and community education in flight," according to a press release.

All the events over the weekend make for a good opportunity of community bonding.

"Everybody's excited we can get together and celebrate one of the best things to happen to Norfolk," Hagood said.

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