By NANCY BELLE
Going downtown to Capital Ale House’s annual Oktoberfest should be something every University of Mary Washington student does at least once before they graduate. Even if you are underage or have no interest in beer, it is an event unlike any other.This year, two blocks of Caroline Street were barricaded off and filled with, not only a ton of people, but food, beer and, of course, fun.
“The people-watching was amazing,” said senior English major Haley Campbell. “I was kind of surprised to see so many age groups represented, from babies to seniors, and more than a few people in full Oktoberfest costume,” she said.
A stage set up on one end of the event hosted a variety of entertainment throughout the day, including Bavarian dancers, a local polka band called the Happy Dutchmen and Fredericksburg’s Elby Brass Band. After paying a $2 cover charge, which benefited the Fredericksburg Area Service League, attendees could choose to spend an extra $3 to get a commemorative beer mug, which could then be filled with a few varieties of beer for an additional charge.
The event was packed by midday and continued to draw an even bigger crowd as the day went on. According to an article in the Free Lance-Star, the event drew approximately 10,000 people throughout the 13.5 hour event, up from 9,000 attendees last year.
While the beer was a bit pricy for some, the food was excellent. Attendees could munch on a Bavarian pretzel bigger than their own head, a gigantic roasted turkey leg or a bratwurst with chips.
Although it may not have been fully authentic, it was “a good time for people to pretend to be what they think is German,” said senior German major Rachel Raiford. Although she admitted to not having attended Oktoberfest in Germany, she said that “chances are it [was] nowhere near the real thing.”
The event was not without controversy. According to the Free Lance-Star, “some downtown merchants [did] not want the festival to be held on Caroline Street.”
They worried that closing down the two blocks that the festival was held on would negatively affect their businesses.
The event did not close the sidewalks leading into the businesses. Instead, barricades were put up in the road.
Despite their worries, many downtown businesses seemed to have a steady flow of customers throughout the day.
“Working [during Oktoberfest] was definitely an adventure,” said sophomore biology major Berkley Schmidt, who works at F.W. Sullivan’s on William Street in downtown Fredericksburg.
“Sullivan’s was packed, and we were so busy that I actually had to go above normal hostess duty and serve drinks to tables while the servers were running around getting everyone fed,” she said. It was “definitely the busiest we’ve ever been since I started working [at the restaurant].”
If you missed Oktoberfest, then there is always next year.
“I’d definitely suggest other UMW students check out Oktoberfest in years to come,” said Campbell.