Seymour’s Oktoberfest offers a little bit of something for everyone — carnival rides, games of skill, a cake walk, a parade and more for the young and food, crafts, polka music, dancing, beer and more for those a little bit older.
And then there’s the stein hoist, an event added in 2015 that just continues to grow and draw in the crowds, even from family members too young to legally enter the biergarten.
This year’s event featured repeat winners in both the men’s competition, Matt Findley of Seymour, and women’s competitions, Stephanie Strothmann of Seymour.
While Findley’s three daughters weren’t among those not old enough to get in, they caught his second straight win by standing just outside the steel mesh enclosure housing it and getting a boost from male companions to see over the top of the fence on occasion.
Findley, who is a contractor, attributed his repeat win to exercise, staying in shape and eating well.
”… and hanging out with good friends,” said Rob Schwartz of Seymour, who attended the event with other friends and family of Findley to cheer him on to victory.
“There’s no secret to winning,” Findley said. “Just stay focused. It’s real fun. I will be back.”
For the record, the champion is always invited to be in the 12-man or woman field the next year.
Findley’s winning time was 4:04, nearly a minute longer than his winning time of 3:12 in 2021. The men’s record in the event is 5:34.
The contest features Spaten Oktoberfest beer, a Märzen-style beer created in 1872 and brewed by Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu in München, German.
The rules are strict, and seemingly small violations can lead to a quick disqualification, such as the one that took Kevin Reder aka Capt. Kev of SV Bubbles, out.
Reder was in town for a free public viewing of “Chasing Bubbles,” a movie about Seymour native Alex Rust to chase a dream. The film was shown Saturday at Schwätzers, a German restaurant owned by Solomon Rust (Alex’s brother) and his wife, Randall Rust, in downtown Seymour.
The rules require the men to hold a 1-liter mug of beer straight out with one hand for as long as possible. The contestants have to stand straight and can’t lean on the table for support, bend their elbow or use both hands to hold the stein up. They couldn’t put their thumb of the handle of the stein, either.
Reder, who lives in the Virgin Islands, finished second with a time of 3:55 after subconsciously making the mistake that cost him the title. Andy Gillaspy of Seymour finished third with a time of 3:31.
“It was getting hard, and I was shaking,” Reder said. “I was wavering and just put my hand on my side, and then the judge (Randall Rust) DQ’d me. I didn’t even know what I was doing. I was just trying to save myself.
“I think it was a great competition. We (Findley) both came down here and he got me by probably 15 or 20 seconds. It came down to a test of wits, and I heard he’s a spray guy.”
As a contractor, Findley admitted to sometimes using a sprayer.
First-time participant Ryan Wieneke had one thing to say after the men’s event was over.
“It was heavy,” the Seymour man said.
Wieneke did add he might compete in a future stein hoist.
Strothmann returned to defend the title she had won two of the last three years. She finished with a time of 4:30 to capture her third crown. The women had to hoist a half-liter.
“In 2020, I wasn’t able to compete because we didn’t have Oktoberfest,” she said. “In 2019, I came on as an alternate. I was extremely fortunate to win that year. When 2021 rolled around, I thought, ‘What the heck? Why not try again?’ I said I wasn’t going to do it this year but got persuaded to come back.
“My secret is to focus on one thing, and the biggest thing is be prepared for the pain that is going to follow. You will feel pain in your arm, no doubt.”
Kristen Mattox finished second after Strothmann with a time of 4:17, and Adrianne Blackburn was third with a time of 4:10.
In 2019, Strothmann finished with a time of 4:40, and a year ago, she won with a time of 6:50. Oktoberfest was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.
The stein hoist is operated by the Knights of Columbus Council 1252 of Seymour, which operates the biergarten each year during Oktoberfest. Proceeds from both go to local activities supported by the organization.
Barthlomew County Beverage also acts as sponsor of the event, established by then board members Zach Clark, Ben Stahl and Cody Schwade. Clark was president of the board this year, and Schwade is vice president and in charge of the biergarten.