Tulsa’s Oktoberfest evokes the atmosphere of the Munich original
Tonja Carrigg made several trips to Munich, Germany to experience the original Oktoberfest.
“It’s truly been a phenomenal experience,” said Carrigg, who serves as director of Tulsa’s Oktoberfest in addition to her duties as director of community relations for Tulsa’s River Parks Authority. “And that’s our inspiration for the Tulsa festival. Every year we try to add more things that make our festival more authentic, more like the one held in Munich.”
The 2022 festival, which officially opens Thursday, Oct. 20 at River West Festival Park, 2100 S. Jackson Ave., marks the 43rd year of this celebration of Bavarian food, drink and conviviality. While still far from questioning the longevity of Munich’s original, which dates back to the early 1800s, Tulsa’s Oktoberfest has consistently been hailed as one of the best such festivals in the country.
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Although Thursday is the official first day of the 2022 festival, activities began on Tuesday, with the Abend im Festzelt – better known as Biermeister’s Ball, a paid private event – and continues on Wednesday with Gemütlichkeit, which is the main Oktoberfest fundraising event.
Oktoberfest will begin with the traditional Ein Abend mit Freunden und Familie, or evening of friends and family, from 5 p.m. on Thursday, October 20. Evening activities include the parade of brewers, tapping of the ceremonial first barrel, and fireworks over the Arkansas River.
Carrigg said one of the new features for 2022 will be the ability to reserve a table for up to 10 guests for the entire evening of the festival’s opening night, Thursday, October 20. The cost is $400, or $40 per person.
“One of the hallmarks of the Munich event is the sense of community that is created when people come together,” she said.
Also new for the 2022 Tulsa event are a number of wooden structures designed to recall cabins and similar buildings one might encounter on a visit to Bavaria.
“We’ve had these structures on our radar for some time, and after the success of last year’s festival, we were able to add them,” Carrigg said. “They will replace some of the tents and cabins we have used in the past, and they will be very decorated, to add to the experience of really feeling in Germany.”
This year will also bring the flavors of Bavaria to the banks of what remains of the Arkansas River in a literal way, with the first-time participation of the Weihenstephan Brewery, a Munich-based operation that claims to be the oldest operating brewery in the world. world.
Originally a project of the residents of a Benedictine monastery, the Weihenstephan Brewery has survived fires, plagues, wars and other calamities in its nearly 1,000 year history. The brewery will be offering five of its signature beers in its dedicated beer tent, or zelt, during the festival. In total, there will be a dozen of these zelts at this year’s festival featuring local, national and international breweries, serving over 100 different beers.
Festival-goers can enjoy these libations using a MassKrug, a one-liter (33.8-ounce) cup that resembles the iconic serving vessels of Munich’s Oktoberfest. A less ostentatious model, the 16-ounce KleinKrug, is also available.
While most of the things added to this year’s Oktoberfest are designed to evoke the Old World, this year’s festival will also feature the beginnings of something that is strictly Tulsa.
“One of the most popular events is our Dachshund Dash, which we’ve been doing for about 10 years now,” Carrigg said, referring to the annual spirit featuring a group of local badger dogs (which is the literal translation from the word dachshund).
“It’s something everyone loves, because there’s just something about a dachshund that makes you smile,” she said. “We already have our Bier Meister and Chicken mascots, so we decided to add a new mascot, which is Dash the Dachshund.”
Last year, the festival inaugurated a gastronomic component with its Restaurant am Himmel, or Restaurant in the Sky. It returns this year, offering a three-course Bavarian meal with beer and wine pairings, prepared by Chef Josh Vitt of Vitter’s Catering.
Restaurant am Himmel will offer one seat on Thursday, October 20 at 6:30 p.m. Two seats will be available at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, October 22 and 22. The cost is $70 adults, $45 children.
Nearly 30 food vendors will be on hand, offering everything from authentic German sausages and schnitzels to carnival dishes such as corn dogs and funnel cakes.
The festival will also include entertainment by some 40 artists, including two German bands – AlpenFetzer and Dorfrocker – as well as familiar Oktoberfest performers such as accordionist Alex Meixner, Das ist Lustig and the Chardon Polka Band.
Costumed dancers, musicians and comedians perform hourly at Das Glockenspiel, and Der KinderPlatz will offer a variety of entertainment, crafts and games for younger guests.
As Tulsa Oktoberfest fills more than a weekend with activity, Carrigg said there’s a Munich tradition she hopes can bring to Tulsa.
“One of the mainstays of the Munich festival is that on the first day they have a parade through the city center of participating brewers and others who represent aspects of German culture,” she said. “It’s one of the events I’ve never missed.
“We have our parade on the festival grounds, and it’s a lot of fun,” Carrigg said, “but I would love to evolve into a full-scale parade from downtown Tulsa to the festival site. It would be a way of emphasizing that this festival is about community, which is why we’re in our 43rd year – because the Tulsa community participates in this festival at every level.