The Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds has played host to music festivals and the annual Northern Wisconsin State Fair this summer, but the grounds will be filled with enough lederhosens, strudel and beer to make Chippewa Falls look like Munich this weekend.
The 16th annual Oktoberfest returns this week to Chippewa Falls, and will take place on Friday, Sept. 14, through Sunday, Sept. 16.
Oktoberfest is a traditional German beer festival and traveling funfair that originated in Bavaria, Germany in 1810.
The festival in the Chippewa Valley boasts three days of live music spanning many genres, an eclectic variety of craft beers and a growing number of quality food vendors.
While many of the festival’s activities are targeted toward the 21-plus demographic, Chippewa Area Chamber of Commerce Programs Director Maranda Mahr said the festival will have options for the younger attendees.
“Oktoberfest is a really fun and family-friendly event,” Mahr said. “While we have the traditional events for the adults to partake in, we also have a whole stage dedicated to kids so they have something to do as well. There is a little something for everyone to experience and appreciate about this festival.”
Mahr said in addition to the fan favorite aspects of the festival such as live music and traditional German food options, Oktoberfest will be offering a smorgasbord of new events this year.
The first new addition is a social media-sparked medallion hunt. Each day this week on the Chippewa Valley Oktoberfest Facebook page at 4 p.m., a clue will be posted to attempt to lead participating patrons toward a specific location in the area. If and when someone finds this location, the winner will receive $100 in chamber bucks.
The second new addition is a keg-rolling competition where racers will have the opportunity to race partially filled kegs down the course at both noon and 5 p.m. on Saturday. A local college will be involved with the festivities this year as well.
The UW-Eau Claire German Club will be hosting a Stammtisch (a traditional German drinking session) at 3 p.m. on Saturday, an addition that plans to bring Eau Claire college students and Oktoberfest closer together. The final two additions to the festival are both geared toward the main draw of the festival, beer.
At 5:30 p.m. Saturday, John Hensley, assistant brewmaster at Leinenkugel Brewing Co., will demonstrate home brewing to the Oktoberfest patrons. And lastly, in addition, local brewery Brewster Bros. is joining the roster and will be offered in all three beer gardens.
But all of the food, beer and dancing wouldn’t be the same without live music, and this year Oktoberfest will host more than 20 bands including Jeff White & The Electric Range, Rhino, Drew Davis, Good for Gary, Troppo, A Girl’s Journey, Bad Habits Brass, Kenny Brandt and many more.
Chris Durow, bass player for Oktoberfest 2018 artist Drop Tailgate, said the festival has a lot of different musical styles to offer in addition to traditional German music like Polka.
“We had a great time last year, and we’re looking forward to coming back this year,” Durow said. “We play a wide variety of music, a lot of country, classic rock and ‘90s. We’ll have a little bit of everything for everyone to listen to.”
Jim Busta, band leader and button accordion player of Friday’s Northwestern Bank Hauptfestzelt Main Entertainment Tent Headliner, The Jim Busta Band, said the past few times his band has played at the festival have been memorable and they are excited to return to the Oktoberfest stage.
“I think the Chippewa Falls Oktoberfest is truly one of the best Oktoberfests around,” Busta said. “They have a great environment on the fairgrounds, and between the food, beverages and entertainment there is something for the whole family. It’s an event we look forward to playing every year.”
For more information and tickets to Oktoberfest, visit gochippewafalls.com/events/Oktoberfest, Chippewa Falls Oktoberfest on Facebook, or call 1-866-723-0340.