By Tiffeny Owens
The Cullman Times
Cullman’s 32nd annual Oktoberfest kicked off Saturday with a new tradition, the ceremonial tapping of a beer keg, marking the first time in its history that beer was served during the official opening ceremonies.
After the city went wet in 2010, the question of when beer — a German tradition in itself —would be fully integrated into festivities has lingered. After biergartens have been hosted at a separate location for the past two years, on Saturday beer flowed at the epicenter of Oktoberfest, Festhalle where the smell of sour kraut and bratwurst and the upbeat cadence of the Cullman High German band drew hundreds.
With this year’s opening ceremonies taking place on a Saturday rather than Sunday, the annual festival kicked off with not only the tapping of the traditional root beer keg but also the ceremonial tapping of a real beer keg with this year’s Burgermeister Marsha Norris taking the first taste from a decorative stein.
“I just took one sip though,” said a dirndl-clad Norris afterwards. “We have a lot of traditions here and we want to keep as many as possible. But we decided as a board that we want to draw more young people to festival. This is one of the biggest crowds we’ve ever drawn. I don’t think all change is bad.”
Through a partnership with the Alabama Brewers Guild and Cullman Brewers Guild, 50 different beers will be on tap, making it the largest selection in the festival’s history, said Kolby Lawrence with the Oktoberfest board.
Cullman’s own Blue Moose Cafe and Brewpub will be serving Colonel Cullman's Festbier along with selections from Alabama breweries Avondale Brewing Co. of Birmingham, Back Forty Beer Co. of Gadsden, Below the Radar Brewhouse of Huntsville, Blue Pants Brewery of Madison, Cahaba Brewing Co. of Birmingham, Good People Brewing Co. of Birmingham, Old Black Bear Brewing Co. of Huntsville, Straight to Ale of Huntsville, and Yellowhammer Brewing of Huntsville.
“It’s the first year with the new entertainment district, and the first time alcohol has been fully together with the festival. We’re all really excited because we have a lot of new activities and new sponsors coming in from out of town,” Lawrence said. “We think this year will be the best festival yet.”
Last year’s burgermeister Nancy Clemmons Moore was amazed by the crowds Saturday.
“We keep growing by leaps and bounds. Who would have ever thought it would get this big?” said Moore from her packed memorabilia tent. “I still remember helping my mom (the late Pat Clemmons) put up the hay people, and this morning, I just feel like her and my dad (Philip Clemmons) are smiling down to see what Oktoberfest has become.”
The event continues today with the selecting of the 2013 Miss Oktoberfest and a fashion show featuring authentic German clothing and modern dress at Festhalle Market Platz from 2:30 to 4 p.m.
Admission is free to the annual Oktoberfest Choir Concert at Sacred Heart Catholic Church from 3 to 5 p.m. The Stories from the Past Living History Cemetery Tour will be every thirty minutes from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Adult tickets are $8; 18 months to 6 years are $5.
Sunday events wrap up with a Polka Party at the Festhalle from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Alabama Craft Biergarten
209 1st Ave. NE
noon to midnight with live music, Alabama Craft Beer, sports TV.
College football viewing
7 p.m. Stein Hoisting Contest
4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Stories from the Past Living History Cemetery Tour, 1st Ave. NE, tours every thirty minutes. Adult-$8; 18 months to 6 years-$5. 256-734-3327 or 734-0383.
5 to 7 p.m. St. Paul’s Oktoberfest Dinner, 510 3rd Ave. SE in the school’s gym. $10. info: 256-734-3821. Entertainment provided by Wolfgang Moritz.
1 to 11 p.m. Oktoberfest Block Party, 353 3rd Ave. SE, 256-734-4322, live music, food and drinks. All Steak and Carlton’s restaurant.
1:30 p.m. St. Andrews Praise Team provides music at Festhalle.
2 p.m. Oktoberfest Paddle Board Race, 3 mile relay at Smith Lake Park. Info: 256-739-3002.
2:30 to 4 p.m. Fashion Show & Miss Oktoberfest Contest, models wearing authentic German clothing and modern dress at Festhalle.
3 to 5 p.m. Oktoberfest Choir Concert at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Stories from the Past Living History Cemetery Tour, 1st Ave. NE, tours every thirty minutes. Adult-$8; 18 months to 6 years-$5.
5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Polka Party at the Festhalle. $10.
5 to 7 p.m. St. John’s Oktoberfest Dinner, 512 2nd Ave. SE, $10, info: 256-734-0344.
5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Cullman Community Band at the Festhalle.
7 p.m. Traditional German Music, 209 1st Ave. NE in Cullman.
7 to 8:15 p.m. Candlelight Walking Tour in Downtown Cullman, 209 1st Ave. NE, free.
Tiffeny Owens can be reached email at email@example.com or by phone at 256-734-2131, ext. 135.