Downtown Oktoberfest grows into fifth year

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Plans are brewing for downtown Kilgore’s fifth annual Oktoberfest celebration next month.

With five weeks to go until the Oct. 13 event, organizers met again at city hall this week as Kilgore Special Events Coordinator & Main Street Manager refined the layout for the German-themed festivities, set on North Kilgore Street and Main in the downtown core.

Learning from the ebb-and-flow of past years’ crowds, Sonya Trout noted the 2018 event will begin later than before and run later, kicking-off at 1 p.m. that Saturday afternoon and continuing until about 9 p.m. Live entertainment will be split on two different stages this year, and the planners are recruiting a band to close out the festival.

As accordion music fills the downtown streets, the festival’s Bier Garden will be back courtesy of AMBUCS of East Texas with a variety of adults-only beverages, and Brookshire’s is sponsoring a soft drink option in the Root Beer Garden. Among a variety of new activities, Oktoberfest 2018 will also include a competitive eating event with prize money on the line.

There are spaces for 10 participants, Trout said, and each must pay a $25 entry fee to scarf their way through a stack of hot dogs toward a $250 prize.

“Whoever eats 10 the quickest,” she added. It’s adults-only, Trout noted: participants will need to sign a waiver to compete. After the prize-money bout, “That will be followed by a celebrity show-down,” with the organizers on the lookout for special-invitation contestants.

The Hot Dog Eating Competition begins at 4 p.m. that day. Building up to it, the official opening and ceremonial tapping of the Oktoberfest keg is set for 1:15 p.m. followed by a performance by the Bier Nutz oompah band under the tent of the Bier Garden.

Guests will be invited to test their strength in two Bier Stein Holding Competitions (at 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the developing schedule). Twice during the day, the outdoor stage will feature a crowd-participation chicken dance as well as a performance and lesson by the Kilgore High School Co-ed Dance team.

There are already 30 vendors on the roster for this year’s event, a mix of food and merchandise. Meanwhile, Kilgore College Culinary Arts students will compete, providing samples of German fare for visitors to taste and hoping the guests vote for the dish. This year’s event will also include a ‘Best Bratwurst’ competition – would-be contestants can contact Trout for more details at 903-988-4117.

The Down Home Cloggers will make an encore appearance at the celebration, there will be a ‘Best-Dressed’ competition for visitors sporting Oktoberfest regalia and Kilgore High School theater students will host a 3:15 p.m. Story Time for young visitors.

This year’s ‘Kinder Zone’ will also include a handful of bumper cars as well as flower crown crafting and other kid-oriented activities with the event’s Root Beer Garden nearby.

For more information and updates, log on to the festival’s Facebook event page via tinyurl.com/KilgoreOktoberfest2018. Find an ongoing calendar of downtown events at KilgoreMainStreet.com.

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