Oktoberfest — bigger and better than ever — returns to Panther Island Pavilion for its third year.
Once upon a time — or, more appropriately, es war einmal — Fort Worth celebrated the noble institution of Oktoberfest at a festival hosted by the Fort Worth Symphony at the downtown Convention Center. Several years ago, this tradition came to an end, and there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. Many noble spirits carried the torch of Oktoberfest with smaller events hosted at local bars, but these lacked the grand, communal atmosphere of the citywide celebration.
Three years ago, the intrepid souls at the Trinity River Vision Authority set out to correct this wrong, and gave our singular and fun-loving city a proper Oktoberfest. This September 22-24, Oktoberfest Fort Worth returns to Panther Island Pavilion for its third incarnation. Across three days, the festival gives locals and visitors alike a glorious excuse to eat bratwurst, hoist steins, declaim “Prost!” and celebrate all things Germanic.
“We had an opportunity to host an event at Panther Island in the fall, and wanted to do something for Fort Worth that has a cultural impact,” says Shanna Cate of TRVA. “We credit Spaten, our beer sponsor, for jumping in and making this possible. We reached out to our sister city in Germany, looked at other festivals in the area, and everyone agreed that Fort Worth needed a true Oktoberfest.
From the beginning, the TRVA placed an emphasis on authenticity. The group opened a dialogue with Treier, Fort Worth’s sister city, and extended an invitation for the mayor to attend. As for the festival itself, attendees won’t find hamburgers and Bud Light
“We only sell German and craft beers, no domestics,” says Shanna. “We have German food, crafts, and bands. We are really trying to limit ourselves to German-themed vendors.
Sponsorship by Spaten makes it easy to serve the German beer component of the festival. Known as the “flavor of Munich,” the brewery dates its history back to the 14th century, and claims a large part of the responsibility for the worldwide popularization of German beers. The ceremonial tapping of the kegs, which signals the commencement of Oktoberfest, began as a tradition in Munich in 1950. The beer used on this historic occasion? Spaten, of course; the same, in fact, that will flow at Fort Worth’s tapping of the keg on Thursday, September 22nd
“Thursday night is the big tapping of the keg ceremony,” says Shanna. “We bring in the elected officials and community stakeholders, and they do a toast. The business community has traditionally been interested in coming to that event. In 2017, Treier plans to send over a delegation, and we hope to tap the kegs with mayors of both cities.”
Those who want to join Fort Worth’s Keg Tapping Committee can arrive at Panther Island Pavilion at 5pm on Thursday. The opening ceremonies get conducted within the Spaten Main Hall, and attendees can witness the live tapping of the first kegs. Per tradition, the tappers will use wooden mallets and bronze spouts, and strive to spill nary a drop. The event continues that night with live music, courtesy of Brave Combo, Alpine Village Band, the Walburg Boys, and Alpenmusikanten.
Ceremony and pomp certainly add a valuable aura of history to Oktoberfest. But let’s be honest: the true draw is beer, revelry, and good times shared in The Shack. The party really gets started — and the beer flowing — on Friday. The festivities once again kick off at 5pm, so attendees can save their “sick days” for the following Monday.
“We program every stage with entertainment all night long,” says Shanna. “Friday night we also have our Young Professional Olympics. Non-profits, community groups, and young professional organizations compete in German-themed games for prizes and bragging rights.
If you’ve ever wanted to prove your mettle alongside your coworkers, or forge bonds of fraternity through the thrill of competition, you can’t miss this opportunity to rolls kegs, carry steins, and toss sausages for sport. If your group doesn’t come out on top, never fear: there are no real losers when everyone gets to drink Spaten beer. Live music for Friday arrives thanks to the efforts off Das Ist Lustig, 3rd Generation, Alpenmusikanten, and Off the Grid Band.
Saturday gives everyone an opportunity to slip into some leiderhosen, pull up those trachten socks, and really make a go of the Bavarian Bacchanalia. Oktoberfest runs from 11AM until 11PM, and the day comes jam-packed with activities suitable for all ages. To start the day off right, consider the Oktoberfest Run und Ride. This event comprises a 5k and 1-mile fun-run, plus a 15-mile bike ride. Prizes will be awarded to top finishers, and all participants can celebrate completion with a frosty stein of Spaten.
A special beer concoction, the Radler, makes it debut this year to provide the perfect capstone to the Run und Ride. The Radler, which is German for “cyclist,” consists of a half-and-half mixture of beer and lemonade. In German-speaking regions, it was traditionally offered as a less-alcoholic alternative for athletes in need of some post-competition refreshment. The fun continues after the race with a slate of activities targeted to families, including Bavarian dances and a couple events dedicated to Germany’s unofficial canine ambassador: the dachshund.
“Saturday caters to people who want to get up early, have a workout, and reward themselves with a beer,” says Shanna. “Mid-day we’ll have the dachshund races and parade, which is a favorite among the kids. Saturday afternoon also has a lot of games, while the evening is focused on the bands and entertainment. By that point, everyone will be singing and dancing.”
For those who missed out on the Young Professional Olympics, Saturday afternoon presents a chance for solo competitors to test their mettle against stein hoisting, bier barrel rolling, and stein carrying. Authentic German music carries the festival through to its finish, and Saturday’s lineup includes Alpine Village Band, Brave Combo, Das Ist Lustig, 3rd Generation, Alpenmusikaten, and more. Between each act, attendees can hop on the stage and participate in a “stein hoist.” Ten competitors, each with a liter of Spaten’s finest, compete to see who can hoist their bier the longest.
Tickets for the festival are available now online at www.oktoberfestfw.com. A limited number of early-bird purchasers will get a limited-edition stein, and children aged 12 and under get free admission.
This year, the TRVA has partnered with the Reata to offer an Oktoberfest VIP option. A $60 ticket provides entry into the special Reata Haus, which provides a three-course meal with options of Pork Schnitzel,German Sausage, or Roasted Chicken with Bacon Onion Gravy. The ticket also includes festival admission, a commemorative stein, VIP seating in a special air-conditioned pavilion, and complimentary non-alcoholic beverages.
Whether you want to showcase your skills at a sausage toss, kick up your heels to a polka, sample great beers, or chow down on Bavarian pretzels, streudel, skillet potatoes, and roasted nuts, Fort Worth’s 2016 Oktoberfest lets anyone become a German for a day. Buy your tickets now, and let the good times roll along with the kegs.