Leavenworth to launch a new Oktoberfest with smaller beer gardens, more family activities

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LEAVENWORTH, County Chelan — Those interested in drinking beer and listening to Bavarian music can enjoy those pastimes this fall, as Oktoberfest returns to the town of Leavenworth.

Oktoberfest will return after a two-year hiatus, but it will be run by the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce and will be on a smaller scale, Leavenworth Mayor Carl Florea said. The city and the chamber are trying to redesign the city’s Oktoberfest, making it more community and family friendly.

“There will be this traditional part of beer gardens, but there will be a smaller footprint and it will be more extensive than just our parking lots,” Florea said.

Projekt Bayern operated Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest, but in 2021 the town of Leavenworth rejected a request from the organization to hold the festival again. City wanted the event to be planned differently, Florea said, but Projekt Bayern’s bid listed no changes.

“They said, ‘No, we’re going to do it the same way we’ve always done it,'” Florea said. “And so, we said, ‘Well no, we really want to frame this in a different model. “”

Projekt Bayern has decided to move Oktoberfest from Leavenworth to the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee. It will take place this year over three weekends starting on September 30 and ending on October 15. The organization retains the name “Leavenworth Oktoberfest”.

The Leavenworth and Wenatchee events will take place on the same weekends and on the exact same days.

Steve Lord, who is Oktoberfest chairman with Projekt Bayern, declined to comment. Lord said he needed to speak to his lawyers about the town of Leavenworth having its own Oktoberfest event.

The Facebook page for Leavenworth Oktoberfest – the event held in Wenatchee – has a post that says the Town of Leavenworth and the Chamber of Commerce are lying to people that an Oktoberfest is happening in Leavenworth.

“The mayor has decided not to sign a permit and is trying to steal an event the city has never invested in,” the post read. “That’s how Carl is. Never does anything alone.

Florea said it was clear that the city and the chamber planned to create a new type of Oktoberfest event with or without the help of Projekt Bayern.

“I think it comes down to their way of thinking like they own the festival and that’s just not true,” Florea said. “They [just] held a particular form of this festival here for a number of years.

An Oktoberfest, however, is an internationally used term for a Bavarian-style festival that takes place in October, and the town of Leavenworth hosts one, Florea said.

Florea said he didn’t think the Leavenworth event would rival Wenatchee’s Oktoberfest. The city hasn’t seen a downturn in tourism over the past two years, despite the absence of Oktoberfest in the city.

“We think the valley is big enough for both,” Florea said.

Details of the exact events and activities for the festival have not been finalized and the Chamber of Commerce is still working on it, said Christie Voos, spokesperson for the town of Leavenworth.

According to a press release from the town, the Leavenworth Festival will include more family-friendly activities, such as a root beer garden for children. It will also have several beer gardens for adults placed in the Festhalle and Front Street Park, to divide the crowds.

The event will feature beer from local breweries among its offerings. This includes a special strain that will be a collaboration of three different breweries, Florea said.

The overall goal of the festival revamp, however, has been to scale it down, Voos said.

“The size of the festival and the size of our city didn’t match,” Voos said.

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