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October 5, 2012

Oktoberfest kicks off Sat.; opening ceremonies Sun.

CULLMAN — After decades of exclusively serving root beer at Festhalle Market Platz, attendees at this year’s Cullman Oktoberfest will have the option for something a little stronger this weekend.

For the second year in a row there will be two ceremonial kegs tapped at Cullman Oktoberfest — only this time, both will actually be located at the event’s downtown home of Festhalle at the corner of 1st Avenue and Arnold Street NE.

After the “unofficial” tapping at the Smith Farms biergarten last year attracted a huge crowd for the event’s first-ever alcohol sales, organizers have now planned an official beer keg tapping for Festhalle this Saturday.

The traditional opening ceremonies will still continue as scheduled on Sunday, with the root beer keg available.

Festivities kick off Saturday with the Sacred Heart School street sale at 6 a.m., the festival at 10 a.m. and the keg-tapping at 11 a.m.

After the event attracted record crowds in 2011, organizers say they hope the momentum will continue with an expanded event this year.

“We look for a big crowd again and we believe everything is going to be bigger and better,” Cullman Oktoberfest board member Ernest Hauk said.

Though Oktoberfest is bigger than ever, the added attention has come with its share of growing pains. Organizers and private vendors such as Smith Farms owner Rodger Turner have butted heads as to exactly how the festival should grow, and which beer distributors should be used.

The issues came to a head a few months ago when the Oktoberfest board and Turner had trouble agreeing on a schedule of events to satisfy both parties.

But, Hauk said he doesn’t expect those headaches to hinder the event.

“I’m excited that it’s here, but we’ve had a lot of stops and starts and a lot of growing pains,” Hauk said. “But, thanks to the volunteer board we’ve got it all pretty well ready to go.”

Smith Farms will once again be hosting a free-admission biergarten at the Rotunda with live music and events, just off Clark Street, for the entire week of festivities. Turner is also planning to stage the city’s first ever brewfest Saturday from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m., with numerous micro-brews available for one cent. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the gate.

The Oktoberfest board will also host a biergarten in the back of Festhalle and in the adjoining street, doubling the available space for sales and offering several beer vendors.

“I think people will be excited where the whole area is open, and it’s not a segregated region,” Hauk said. “The entertainment will be more varied this year and I think there’ll be a little more for everyone.”

Turner did not return a message left seeking comment by deadline of this article.

* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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