Boasting the largest parade, food selection and 5K run and walk of any Jackson County event, it’s once again time for the Seymour Oktoberfest.
The Biergarten and carnival open and some nonprofit organizations will have their booths open Wednesday evening, but the 46th annual festival officially opens Thursday and runs through Saturday.
“I just think the Oktoberfest is good for your soul,” board member Kendra Zumhingst said. “People enjoy it, and it’s a time for family and friends and your community.”
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The festival also is unique because it not only brings people in Jackson County together, but many who have moved away return, and people from surrounding counties and even other states make the trip here.
One year while working in the information booth, Zumhingst said she met a woman from South Dakota who was passing through one year and visited the Oktoberfest, and she had come back the next 11 years.
“She said she liked the area and liked the festival that we put on,” Zumhingst said. “The city does a really great job of keeping it clean. I think that’s a big draw also. You can have all of this, but if you don’t take care of it, then you’re not going to have something that people want to go back to.”
Food, activity and arts and craft booths will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Many of those booths are run by local nonprofit organizations and churches that benefit from the profits.
Zumhingst said there were a few food vendors that normally come to the festival but can’t this year because of a conflict, so some new ones will be set up.
“I think that will kind of change it up and give a little incentive to check out the new stuff,” she said.
People visiting the festival also can buy Oktoberfest merchandise from the Seymour Noon Lions Club and Sertoma Club of Jackson County. The Lions Club booth features apparel with a logo from the design contest conducted after last year’s festival, and there are new German hats being sold, too.
The carnival will run from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and from 1 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the B&O Parking Lot. Ride bracelets will be available for $20 at the ticket booth.
Each night, there will be entertainment on stages on Chestnut, Second and Third streets, and roving musicians will wander around the festival grounds. The lineup includes the Schulhaus 4+3 German Band playing for four hours Thursday through Saturday night and for an hour and a half Saturday afternoon.
There also will be a tribute to Don Tatlock, who died earlier this year and had been instrumental in putting together the bluegrass music lineup at the festival.
On Thursday, the activities include a baking contest at 10 a.m. and opening ceremonies featuring the Seymour High School band and color guard, booth, window decorating and baking contest awards and prince and princess contest starting at 4:45 p.m.
On Friday, the highlights include the Hairless for the Homeless head-shaving event for Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry and a hot air balloon glow.
Saturday kicks off at 8 a.m. with the 5K run and walk starting at Seymour High School. Zumhingst organizes the race, which draws hundreds of participants.
“The 5K is probably going to be stronger than ever. It just grows exponentially,” she said. “It’s a flat course, it’s a fast course, so I think that also helps. It’s nice to be able to say that it’s the largest race in Jackson County.”
The horseshoe tournament is at noon at Gaiser Park, and then the parade steps off at 1:30 p.m., traveling along Second and Chestnut streets.
Zumhingst said the number of parade entries was lowered this year because it had been up to nearly 100 and went too long.
“It’s always well-attended,” she said. “When you make the corner at the library and you look up at the library and see that there are like 30 people deep sitting and standing watching the parade, you know that there is something about it.”
Other activities that afternoon and night include Game of S.K.A.T.E. at the Schurman-Grubb Memorial Skate Park, a stein hoist, a hot air balloon race, a baby contest, a cooking demonstration, a brat eating contest, a talent show and a chicken and polka dance contest.
Zumhingst said she’s happy to be involved with the Oktoberfest committee to put together a great festival each year.
“We have a good group of worker bees who are a good mix of people that have been on there,” she said. “It’s just a good collaborative effort between the city, fire and police keeping it safe, and the Department of Public Works guys, they do work after everything shuts down, and we couldn’t do it without them. It’s exciting to see all of these people and things that happen throughout the year culminate to ‘It’s go time.’”
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Parking for the Seymour Oktoberfest is available at Seymour High School with a free shuttle service offered from 4 to 11 p.m. Thursday and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday.
Handicap parking is available at the corner of Indianapolis Avenue and Third Street and in the parking lots at the Jackson County Public Library and The Tabernacle.
Bicycle parking will be at Seymour High School by riding the shuttle and in front of Larrison’s Diner, Seymour Police Department and B2 Bikes & Boards.
For information and a full Oktoberfest schedule, visit seymouroktoberfest.com.