PANAMA CITY— The 29th annual Oktoberfest returns Downtown on Saturday, when thousands are expected to descend upon Harrison Avenue in a festival celebrating Bavarian beer and culture.
“This year, we tried to be different, more Bavarian,” said Dutch Sanger, director of the Downtown Improvement Board, which is hosting the event for the ninth year. “The Bay County German Club is involved in it this year.”
Downtown joins cities across the world hosting annual Oktoberfest celebrations modeled after the original festival in the early 1800s in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. Millions still descend upon Munich annually for the 16-day festival, which runs from late September to the first Sunday in October.
The DIB always has hosted its Oktoberfest the first Saturday in October, but this year, it was moved to the second Saturday to further separate it from Friday Fest. Sanger hopes to get some of the Thunder Beach traffic this year as the festival, named “Outstanding Special Event” in Florida in 2009 by the Florida Main Street Organization, makes its own Bavarian footprint.
“Restaurants will be out on the street selling German food,” Sanger said. “We added a Biergarten from Panache tents; it’s huge.”
Festivals flow in October, and so will the beer on Saturday after the 2 p.m. ceremonial tapping of the keg with Mayor Greg Brudnicki.
The DIB is packing in the theme from the 300 to 500 blocks of Harrison Avenue with more than 40 retail booths, Bavarian food and music, extended store hours to 8 p.m. and children’s activities. Check out live entertainment at the intersections on Harrison Avenue at Fifth Street and Fourth Street, with music playing all day and into the night. At 7 p.m. The Rowdies, Destin’s Classic Rock Band, will play on the Florida Lottery Stage, while Jeff & The Camaros will be playing on the Fifth Street Stage. The Florida Lottery Stage also will host the Panama CityDog Fanciers “Wet T-Shirt Contest” and Weiner Dog Contest at 4 p.m.
The Harrison Avenue Biergarten, underneath a 30 by 40 canopy tent, will be filled with roundtables and chairs, plants, German music and food, as well as 22 beers for sampling.
“We’re excited. I think it’s going to look amazing,” said Clay Keels, Panama City event planner for Panache Tent + Event.
The $10 passes to the Biergarten, good for the entire festival, include the Bavarian food and beer tasting.
One access point will be open to the tent, which will be surrounded by fencing, “the same type used on sand dunes, to create that garden feel,” Keels said. ‘We’ve got lots of plants, burlap on the tables … we are elevating it a little bit.”
Bistro string lights will adorn the peaks of the tent.
“When I was younger, I went to one in Germany and researched it again,” Keels said. “Doing it under a tent is a little different.”
Gilbert Hamati of Trigo, 119 Harrison Ave., will be serving plates of bratwurst, sauerkraut and potato salad in the Biergarten.
“It’s simple and German,” said Hamati, who is known for his version of potato salad at the restaurant. “I want to make sure people are eating and full.”
The Biergarten also will be filled with oompah sounds from Krankenhaus, who will be playing on the stage from 3-7 p.m. You might have heard Krankenhaus performing as the house band at Hofbrau Beer Garden in Pier Park, where you can order Hofbrau Oktoberfest beer throughout the month.
29TH ANNUAL OKTOBERFEST
When: 2-10 p.m. Saturday
Where: 300 to 500 blocks of Harrison Avenue, which will be closed to vehicular traffic
What: Extended store hours, retail vendors, local bands, children’s activities and inflatables, sword fighters, Bavarian food and a Harrison Avenue Biergarten with German music, plates of bratwurst, sauerkraut and potato salad and 22 beers to sample.
Admission: Free for festival; $10 for Biergarten
Details: (850) 785-2554 or PCDIB.com
Visit the Harrison Avenue Biergarten for a sampling of 22 beers: Widmer Hefe, Gordon Biersch Marzen, Gordon Biersch IPB, Southern Tier Harvest, Becks, Becks Light, Becks Dark, Becks Oktoberfest, Krombacher Dark, Krombacher Weizen, Victory Golden Monkey, Victory V-12, Victory Helios, Victory Pilsner, Victory Helles Lager, Bayou Teche Biere Pale, Bayou Teche Noire, Green Flash Triple, Green Flash IPA, Green Flash Saison, Hoegarrden Whit and Leffe Blonde.