By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
Cullman Oktoberfest 2012 may not have had the “buzz” of first-year alcohol sales like last year, but the latest edition of the event attracted a comparable crowd for the week-long festival.
Officials are still tallying attendance data, though Oktoberfest board member Ernest Hauk says crowds seem to have been close-to-level with last year’s record-breaking attendance, despite dreary weather the first few days of festivities.
“I think the week went great and we had good crowds and a lot of varied entertainment,” he said. “I’ve heard nothing but positive comments about the event. I ran into several people who were here from out of town and that’s one thing you always love to see is tourism generated by events like this. I’d say it was every bit as successful as last year.”
This year was the second to feature beer sales — but the first to host alcohol sales at the event’s downtown home of Festhalle Market Platz. The Smith Farms biergarten also returned this year with live music and events just off Clark Street.
Hauk said the nearby events combined for large crowds at both venues.
“Last year the crowds at the biergarten were large, but we only had one biergarten in a confined area,” he said. “This year, crowds seemed equally distributed between the Oktoberfest biergarten and the Clark Street biergarten, which was really nice. Having beer at Festhalle really increased the crowd at Festhalle.”
A new brew fest at the Clark Street biergarten, sponsored by Smith Farms, was one of the most popular events of the week according to organizer Rodger Turner.
Despite cool, wet weather the event drew between 700-1,000 attendees, all paying $30-per-person to sample more than 100 different micro-brews. Turner sees huge potential in the fest and hopes it can eventually become a signature event for Oktoberfest.
“The brew fest went really well for us, but if the weather hadn’t been so bad we could’ve blown it out of the water,” Turner said. “We’re already making plans for next year and want to come back and make it even bigger. That’ll be an annual event, and I think it can pull people in from all around. That could be Oktoberfest in the future.”
Looking toward next year Hauk said city officials have mentioned bringing in a professional event planner or concert promoter to help coordinate the 2013 edition, so it’s hard to say exactly what shape the festival could take by then.
“I really think we’ll end up getting a promoter to come in and see what we can do as far as additional entertainment, and see what the city wants to do to help this continue to grow,” he said. “That’s the whole point, to grow this into something the community as a whole can enjoy. We’ll be sitting down soon to see what worked well and what we might want to look at changing in the future.”
* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.