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Oktoberfest Bemidji gets council's approval

Get out your lederhosen.

The Bemidji City Council on Monday unanimously approved the first Oktoberfest festival, to be held Oct. 5-7 in downtown Bemidji.

The Bemidji Jaycees, the event's sponsor, hope the celebration becomes an annual festival. The Jaycees, explained co-chair Char Blashill, have been planning the festival for about three years. Bemidji Jaycees even worked at the St. Paul Oktoberfest in preparation for the Bemidji festival.

"It was fun," she said. "We wanted to bring it home."

The City Council voted unanimously to approve the event. "I bet it's going to be great," said Councilor Barb Meuers.

Oktoberfest Bemidji will be held in the block between Third and Fourth streets and Minnesota and Beltrami avenues. The roads will be closed from 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5, until 2 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 7.

Tents, booths and vendors will be available, and children's activities will be offered Saturday morning. Events for kids will include a root-beer garden, bean-bag pumpkin toss, craft projects, pumpkin painting, coloring contest, face-painting/airbrush tattoos, kid's talent show, puppet theater and chicken dance.

For adults, the beer garden will be open from 6-11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. A brat-eating contest will begin at noon on Saturday.

Another event will offer participants the opportunity to taste as many as 100 different beers in small increments, Blashill said.

Blashill said the festival is being promoted as a family event, but because it is an Oktoberfest celebration, "of course it has beer involved," she said.

There also will be a hammerschlagen contest, in which nails are placed in a round log. Contestants take turns swinging a hammer, claw-side down, at the nail. Whoever is the first to strike the nail all the way into the log wins.

"It's a traditional German game," Blashill said.

Music also is planned, and a polka band has been secured for Friday night, she said. Entertainment for Saturday has yet to be determined. She also said the Jaycees hope to get some accordionists to perform.

"We want this to be a cultural event," Blashill said.

She said most of the downtown businesses have been supportive of the festival, although some compromises were made. The beer garden will be closed at 11:30 p.m. both days to help draw business to local establishments, she said.

One business, which she did not name, has objected to the festival, Blashill said. The business owner is worried about several factors, including that Oktoberfest will offer the same alcohol it has available and the public would want to use the business' restrooms, Blashill said.

"She doesn't see the benefit of having (the) festival downtown," she said.

But, Blashill said, another business owner who was unsure of the event is now one of its biggest supporters.

"A lot of downtown businesses want a fall event," she said. "We've been trying to launch this for three years."

Blashill said she has spoken with the Bemidji Police Department about the festival and it was supportive of the event. Two officers will patrol the area during the day and four will patrol in the evening, she said. The Jaycees also plan to pursue additional security from Port-O-Wild's Security Services, according to council documents.

Blashill said this year's festival will be a starting point, and more events and activities will be planned in the future.

"We hope to definitely expand on this," she said.

Schedule of events



-- 5 p.m. - festival begins

-- 6 p.m. - official start with the tapping of the Golden Keg

-- 8 p.m. - hammerschlagen qualifying rounds

-- 6-11:30 p.m. - entertainment and beer garden

-- 12:30 a.m. (Saturday) - festival closes


-- noon - festival opens with children's events (root-beer garden, bean-bag pumpkin toss, craft projects, pumpkin painting, coloring contest, face painting/airbrush tattoos, kid's talent show, puppet theater, chicken dance) and adult events (brat-eating contest)

-- 4-7 p.m. - beer-tasting event

-- 6-11:30 p.m. - entertainment and beer garden

-- 8 p.m. - hammerschlagen finals

-- 12:30 a.m. (Sunday) -festival closes