Traditional German music was heard on the streets of downtown Champaign, filling the neighborhood with smiling faces of old and young alike. Local communities, students and visitors flocked to the corner of Neil and Washington streets for the ninth annual Champaign-Urbana Oktoberfest.
The celebration took place on September 24 and the celebrations lasted from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. People enjoyed beer from local brewers and traditional German food from food trucks. Other activities included a $5,000 raffle, a kid’s zone and a mug possession contest.
FAA junior Mirko Pietrzak is an exchange student from Germany. He said Saturday’s event was his first Oktoberfest in the United States. Pietzak said he was pleased with the quality of the beer and the presence of the community at the festival.
“It’s kind of like home, and it’s really nice,” Pietrzak said. “I love that you have the original Oktoberfest beer, and it tastes the same at home. I didn’t think so many people had authentic, traditional clothing. So I’m surprised by that.
Besides enjoyable activities, the Champaign Oktoberfest is the largest annual fundraiser for the Developmental Services Center. The Developmental Services Center is a non-profit organization that aims to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“It’s nice to come here and make this donation and be able to do it for these people,” said CU resident Georgiana Quinn. “It’s a great organization that needs support.
Past the food trucks and draft beer from local breweries, there was a large seating area under a tent filled with people eating authentic food and listening to live music.
Oktoberfest hosted German polka band Die Musikmeisters, who have performed at the festival for years. The group encouraged people to get up from their seats and dance. Their instruments could be heard from all sections of the celebration.
“I love the idea that you can hang out with your friends, hang out with your friends, and see people you haven’t seen in forever because of COVID,” Quinn said. “That’s why people are out. The music is great, the atmosphere is great, it’s great fun.
Oktoberfest was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic and returned last year due to declining COVID-19 cases. Many in the community are happy to see the celebration again, including FAA assistant professor Zev Steinrock.
“I haven’t been back to this Oktoberfest since COVID-19,” Steinrock said. “Nothing but good memories from before and it feels good to be back.”
People from across the state came to CU to experience the festivities. Danville resident Mike Eatton said he first heard about Oktoberfest on Facebook.
“I didn’t get a chance to go last year, so I made it a point to come this year,” Eatton said. “So far I love it. The beer is good and right now I’m just trying different beers and having fun.
Throughout the evening, the music, entertainment and festivities did not stop. Residents continued to engage in all the activities offered by the organizers. Oktoberfest is a night enjoyed by many, like Champaign-Urbana resident Betsy Waller.
“Oktoberfest is a great tradition and people should wear more dirndls and lederhosen,” Waller said. “It’s really fun to come out and support your local community and businesses.”