FORT MITCHELL, Ala. (WRBL) — Warm fairy lights hung from the treetops. Morning mist filled the air with a slight chill. A giant pretzel sat on a mechanical lift, ready to be hung on a wooden façade designed to look like a Bavarian storefront.
Fort Moore’s MWR team was deep into preparations for its annual Oktoberfest celebration, which is set to take place from Friday, Oct. 20 through Sunday, Oct. 22. According to organizers, the event has taken place at its current location at the Uchee Creek Activity Center for roughly the last 20 years, depending on who you ask. It was originally held elsewhere, and COVID also halted the celebration temporarily.
“This is a great opportunity for Fort Moore and the surrounding community to come together to celebrate the German heritage,” said Fort Moore MWR Special Events Coordinator Nicholas Bailey.
Bailey has been preparing for Oktoberfest for several months, organizing vendors, activities and more. On Sept. 29, MWR officially began setting up for the festival outside the Uchee Creek Activity Center, setting up faux Bavarian façades, lights and other event necessities.
Fort Moore soldiers assisted in setting up and securing buildings. The ring of hammers hitting stakes vibrated through the mist as they worked. An Infantry Bar was already on-site, closed for now but poised for use in the upcoming festival.
“[It] Looks so authentic when it’s all together,” said Fort Moore MWR Publicity Specialist Emily Peterson. She explained members of the construction crew built the first façades for the event nearly 15 years ago and have been adding to the collection ever since. The most recent addition is a Bavarian-style pretzel house, which will be complete once the giant pretzel is hung up.
According to Peterson and Bailey, the event is open-to-the-public and also the largest Oktoberfest celebration held at any Army installation. Bailey laughed, revealing that recently members of other MWR teams had been asking for the construction details used to build Fort Moore’s Bavarian façades to create their own.
The Oktoberfest event will officially open at 4 p.m. Eastern on Oct. 20, kicking off with a keg-tapping ceremony at 6 p.m. Fort Moore’s commanding general, Maj. Gen. Curtis A. Buzzard and other representatives of the Fort Moore command team will be present for the festivities, according to Peterson.
Also on Friday will be performances by the alpine showband Sonnenschein Express and the Manuever Center of Excellence (MCoE) band. The Queen of Oktoberfest will be in attendance as well, with a performance including yodeling, dancing and comedy.
On Saturday, several athletics-centered events will be available as part of Fort Moore’s Octoberfest. At 9 a.m. Eastern, the 10K Lederhosen Leap and 5K Dirndl Dash races will begin. Registration for each is available online or in-person at Fort Moore’s Smith Gym. Entry into the Lederhosen Leap costs $35 per person, while the Dirndl Dash is $10 for those age five and under or $15 for anyone age six and up. Prices will increase for anyone registering on Oct. 21 from 7 to 8:45 a.m.
According to Peterson, those who are interested in participating but do not want to pay entry fees may still do so, they just won’t receive a medal or commemorative t-shirt. This year’s medals are especially fun, Peterson said. They feature a bier stein and double as bottle openers.
This year, MWR has also added a sportheim where guests will be able to watch a variety of college and NFL football games across the weekend. Other activities include an all-day, free volksmarch route for guests, a dachshund derby and attractions like face-painting and carnival rides for children.
Peterson was looking forward to the event, and stated MWR loves to create events which will be memorable for people of all ages.
She said, “We just love having the community out here.”
The Uchee Creek Activity Center is open to the public without any visitor pass required and accessible via the highway 165 entrance. Parking for the celebration is also free. Those who live on Fort Moore are invited to use free shuttle service provided for the event. More information about Fort Moore’s Oktoberfest celebration and schedules can be found on the MWR website.