Oktoberfest brings beer, Bavaria to Tuscaloosa


CW / Madelyn Verbrugge

Tara Davenport | @tara_davenport, Contributing Writer

At the second annual Tuskaloosa Oktoberfest, the community gathered to celebrate tradition while investing in its future. 

The Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority (PARA) and 301 Bistro, Bar, and Beer Garden hosted the second annual Tuskaloosa Oktoberfest Saturday, benefitting the Tuscaloosa All-Inclusive Playground Project.  

Oktoberfest is a two-week beer festival that has been held each October in Munich, Germany, since 1810. Last year, Tuscaloosa joined hundreds of cities all over the world in hosting independent Oktoberfest events to celebrate German culture. 

“When Mercedes-Benz came to town, they brought a lot of the German culture, and there were some Oktoberfest events,” said Becky Booker, public relations and marketing manager for PARA. “We hadn’t had one in a while, so our director and Bill Lloyd here at 301 got together and said, ‘You know, it’s time to bring an Oktoberfest back.’” 

The festival featured authentic German food and beer catered by 301 Bistro, local artisans, German folk band Oompah-Calypse and various games. The most highly anticipated events of the day, however, were the Bavarian costume contest and Dachshund Dash race.  

“They had 40 dachshunds pre-registered today, so that is a tremendously popular part of this event,” Booker said. “And then the Stein Hoist competition is so fun. So those are my two favorite things.” 

The Stein Hoist is a traditional German strength competition in which contestants hold a 32-ounce glass stein full of beer out in front of them for as long as possible. Although there can only be one winner, all participants are rewarded after the competition with the beer in their stein. 

“I definitely came here for the beer originally,” said Hunter Murphree, a junior majoring in management information systems. “But this whole setup is really cool.”

Despite the high temperatures, sound of polka music, smell of bratwurst and sight of blue-and-white banners, Oktoberfest continued to draw in crowds all afternoon. Erin Valenta, a freshman majoring in nursing, and her visiting parents Lisa and Kevin Valenta, happened upon Oktoberfest while exploring downtown. 

“We were looking for things to do and we saw the event was benefitting the all-inclusive playground, and we thought that was a really great thing,” Lisa Valenta said.

All of the proceeds from Oktoberfest are donated to the Tuscaloosa All-Inclusive Playground Project, also known as TAPP, which is building a new accessible playground in Tuscaloosa for children and adults of all abilities. 

Booker said a small group brought the project to PARA a few years ago, concerned with the difficulty in finding places for children with special needs to play in Tuscaloosa. The new playground design includes materials and equipment that are safe and functional for everyone.

PARA has raised over $1 million for the $4 million project and will start the first of three phases of construction next spring. The first phase will feature a play structure with representations of Tuscaloosa landmarks such as Bryant-Denny Stadium and Denny Chimes.

Nick’s Kids Foundation has been the lead donor for the project, in addition to Oktoberfest sponsors like Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports, Bryant Bank and Metro Animal Shelter.

“You know anybody who knew we were coming to ask,” Booker said. “We haven’t had anybody tell us ‘no,’ so we’re really excited about that. We’re asking companies for big donations, but people like you and me can buy a butterfly and put your name on the wall and be supportive in that way, so we’ve got lots of different options for people to be able to support.”

Anyone interested in donating to the Tuscaloosa All-Inclusive Playground Project can go to tcpara.org to purchase a metal butterfly with an engraving of their choice, which will be affixed to the fencing surrounding the park.