Vice-Mayor Brad Ellis tapped the ceremonial first keg of beer to kick off the downtown Oktoberfest, sponsored by Capital Ale House. Capital Ale House partner Chris Holder said approximately 9,000 people are expected to attend the all day event, which lasts until 10 p.m. Tables with blue and white checkered tablecloths, the colors of the Bavarian flag where Oktoberfest originated, were filling early with revelers. The event features German music and dancing, a kids corner with bouncy houses and face-painting, and of course copious amounts of German beer and food.
Oktoberfest has been a source of controversy over the past year as a small group of downtown merchants, led by Ullman’s Jewelery owner Jerry Ullman, opposed the one-day event on the grounds that it hurt their sales for the day. The group of 80 merchants signed a petition asking that the event be moved closer to the waterfront, however Capital Ale House Owners said that due to ABC laws that was not possible. In the end, City Manager Beverly Cameron decided to keep the event on Caroline Street and modify the permit, freeing up more parking and allowing greater pedestrian access to business’ and sidewalks downtown.
Holder said about 150 employees from all their locations work at the event and that entrance fee proceeds go towards the Fredericksburg Area Service league, which works with community organizations benefiting area children. He said the event is not just beer drinking but that it is also a family event. “The whole idea is to bring people downtown and make it a win-win for everybody, especially for the people of Fredericksburg” he said.
This is the fourth year for the downtown Fredericksburg event. Oktoberfest is a traditional Bavarian German celebration held for sixteen days at the end of September outside of Munich, Germany. It has been held since 1810 and was originally a celebration of the marriage of Bavarian King Ludwig I. Today over 6 million people celebrate it each year in Munich and it is the world’s largest fair.