Editor's Note: This year's Boulder Oktoberfest celebration has be canceled.
Pull out the Laderhosen and fill up the Bierstein. Boulder is going German.
It’s time for Boulder’s annual Oktoberfest celebration.
It’s only three years old, but the party is expected to draw thousands of revelers. In its second year, more than 3,000 people came out to celebrate.
This year’s Oktoberfest, organized by State of the Arts Promotions, runs Oct. 13-15. For the third year in a row, it’s in a new location, too. This time at the Twenty Ninth Street Mall, stationed around The Barrel, an outdoor beer garden that’s already basically set up for such an occasion.
Tim Newberg started Boulder’s Oktoberfest when he was looking for a new way to help promote Boulder’s artists. He realized there was no large-scale, community-wide Oktoberfest party in Boulder, and coming from German descent — originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin — he was primed to head one up.
“I grew up celebrating at all of the Oktoberfests. My mother had a European cuisine restaurant. So I try to make this the type of event I remember being so special,” Newberg says.
He says he has visited Germany for Oktoberfest and aims to tap into that same feeling and tradition with his event.
In addition, his wife is from Poland and she will teach polka dancing for free during happy hour every day.
“After a few beers, people learn a lot easier,” Newberg says.
For the first year, the celebration was held at Willow Springs Mall on 28th and Iris streets. Even though the three-day event was cut short by a sudden snowstorm, the turnout was big enough to convince Newberg to keep going. With barely any advertising, within the first two hours, they saw more than 500 faces.
“We got a foot of snow and ice, but people still danced and polkaed into the night,” he said. “The beer helped a little bit with that.”
Last year, he moved it to Central Park, and more than 3,000 people attended.
The Barrel beer garden already has more than 25 beers on site, plus a large outdoor area, lights and a stage.
“It’s the perfect venue for Oktoberfest,” Newberg says.
Local tips: Pre-purchase a Bierstein online at boulderoktoberfest.com and save $5. Check the website for other specials.The event will include kids activities, such as jumpy castles and face painting, hosted by Dizzy Fun Center; live music all day, every day; and more than 100 Colorado artisans selling arts and crafts in tents. You’ll find jewelry, paintings, ceramics and more. Newberg himself is an artist who enjoys art fairs, but he says he didn’t want to organize “just another arts and crafts show.” He said he wanted to create a unique atmosphere that would draw out people who might not otherwise think to attend an art fair.
The event is free to attend and family-friendly. You can buy beer by the glass at The Barrel, or buy a Stein and get your first beer free and refills for a discount (plus a really cool piece of memorabilia).
The event will also include a costume contest at 6 p.m. on Saturday; come in your Bavarian get-ups. There will also be German games, like the longest-braid contest, a bean bag toss and a competition to see who can hold a liter of beer out at arm’s length the longest. If you can make a certain period of time, you might just win the beer for free. Last year, the winner of the Boulder Bierstein-Holding Contest went on to compete nationally on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and won a trip to Munich, Germany, Newberg says.
Local tips: Train for the Bierstein-holding contest by holding out a gallon jug of water for four minutes.
The event will also feature a handful of booths selling authentic German food and performances by the Boulder School for German Language and Culture 2 p.m. on Saturday.
As for the live music, evenings will highlight some of the area’s best polka bands, but you will hear folk, bluegrass and other music during the day.
“If you’ve never been to an Oktoberfest in Germany, they don’t play polka music all day and night. They play all kinds of music, and normally in the evening is when the dancing starts,” Newberg says. “It’s an authentic German Oktoberfest, with the eccentric flair that Boulder offers.”
Want To Go?
What: Boulder Oktoberfest
When: Oct. 13-15
Where: Twenty Ninth Street Mall, Boulder
Features: More than 100 local artisans, live music, contests, beer, German food, dancing and games.
Cost: Free; food and beverage costs extra.