Oktoberfest…that lively little fall celebration where everyone lets their inner Bavarian run free. It’s tough to model a local celebration after the Munich model. Sure, there’s Bavarian polka music, with ladies wearing the dirndl, and men wearing the lederhosen milling about.
There is bratwurst, and of course there is beer. Sehr gut, mein freund, but in Bavaria, Oktoberfest lasts over two weeks. The 2016 Oktoberfest in Bryan, Ohio, couldn’t go two weeks, or even two days for that matter. It was going to be a major undertaking to jam two weeks of fun into the afternoon and evening of October 8, but when the Bryan Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the Williams County Public Library and the Williams County Community Theater took up the challenge, they didn’t just step up to the plate…they hit it out of the park with an incomparable afternoon of fun for all ages.
Held on the Bryan Library property, the front yard in front of the Ruth Markey Children’s Library was abuzz with kids making good use of the inflatables. The activity for the kids continued inside the Children’s Library with games, contests and prizes. Stepping out of the north side of the library and into the parking lot, one was immediately transported to Oktoberfest by the sounds of the live polka music emanating from the tent on the north side of the lot. For those whose ‘traditions’ lied elsewhere, the band shared the tent with a big screen television that was tuned into the Ohio State versus Indiana football game. The entire parking lot was in use for the event, with several varieties of beer, along with bratwurst and other traditional Bavarian fare available in the northwest corner of the lot.
With the northern part of the lot well occupied, the middle and south sides of the lot were put to use with a variety of contests that were, at a minimum, entertaining. A ‘bratwurst toss’ pitted teams of two against each other, charges with the task of tossing a brat back and forth in increasing distances, and catching the same with small buckets. A traditional Bavarian test of strength and endurance called ‘Masskrugstemmen’ was undertaken by several attendees, who quickly discovered that it was not as easy as it seemed. Each contestant was given a large glass stein full of beer, with the object of holding it in an outstretched hand, without bending the arm or spilling the contents. The longest time holding the five-pound liquid load won the event, and the ceremonial stein.
Bales of hay on the southwest side of the lot marked the location for the wiener dog races, with dachshunds taking to the course, while the eastern side of the lot was the home of what was arguably the most entertaining, if not the most hilarious contest of the event. An obstacle course was laid out for teams of four to take part in the beer tray relay race. Each team was given a carefully weighed out tray that held four twelve-ounce glasses of beer. Each member of each team had to make their way through the course, then pass off the tray to their teammate. The object was simple…get through the course with the best time, while losing the least amount of beer. The execution…that wasn’t so simple, much to the delight of the audience that gathered around the course to watch, cheer, and all too often, laugh at the misfortunes and missteps of the contestants.
The Bryan Oktoberfest celebration might not have enjoyed the duration of its Bavarian cousin, but when it came to entertainment for the whole community, Bryanites became Bavarians for a most memorable day in the sunshine.
Timothy Kays can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org