FORT MITCHELL, Ala. (WRBL) — Women were dressed in dirndls, men in lederhosen and others in Army camouflage. The smell of bratwurst filled the air as performers did a mic check on the stage, some wearing bright green knee socks which simply read, “BEER.”
The Uchee Creek campground was transformed into a Bavarian village and fairground for Fort Moore’s annual Oktoberfest, which kicked off at 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 20.
“I’m excited,” said Elita, an employee working with the Funnel Cake Factory, one of the event’s vendors. 2023 marks the second year she has served up the classic fried desert topped with snowy powdered sugar at Fort Moore’s Oktoberfest.
While Elita was most looking forward to serving the local military community and their families—and watching Saturday’s stein hoisting competition—Fort Moore’s MWR publicity specialist Emily Peterson noted there is even more to look forward to at the event.
Immediately upon entering, guests are greeted by an extensive kinder wiesn area, specially geared toward children. It is filled with a pumpkin patch, face painting, bouncy houses, carnival rides and more. Walk a little further and food trucks and traditional German attire are available to browse. Plus, there is an all-new sportheim with college and NFL football screenings are available for guests to watch.
Two hours before the event’s official keg tapping ceremony at 6 p.m. on Oct. 20, the parking lot was already beginning to see traffic as organizers put together the festival’s finishing touches. Meanwhile, the Queen of Oktoberfest prepared for the first of many performances she will do across the event, which runs from Oct. 20 to 22.
Deputy Director of Fort Moore MWR Patricia Lamson urged community members to come on out and “enjoy some German atmosphere [and] some good, fall fun.” Entry to the event is free, she said, although guests will have to pay for vendor items and carnival rides using a token system in which $1 is equal to one token.
For those who aren’t looking for bratwurst, pretzels and beer, the Oktoberfest celebration also has a variety of other options. There are alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink options, including soft drinks, water and cocktails. Peterson noted guests can try everything from alligator to street corn from vendors.
On Saturday morning, the Oktoberfest 5K Dirndl Dash and 10K Lederhosen Leap will set off at 9 and 9:15 a.m., respectively. According to Peterson, pre-registration for the races is closed, however folks can register on the morning of Saturday Oct. 20 from 7 to 8:45 a.m. for a slight upcharge. Registered participants will receive a special medal which also doubles as a bottle opener, and racers are encouraged to compete in traditional German dress.
There is also a free Oktoberfest volksmarch on the 5K course which guests can take throughout the event days. It includes various selfie stations for photo opportunities. Additionally, those who complete the march can visit the MWR information booth to receive a commemorative Oktoberfest pin.
At the end of the day, Peterson said MWR’s priority is to make sure people get home safe. She said, “Don’t drink and drive, that is our biggest safety concern. … If you have too much fun, call a cab!”
Cars left overnight will not be towed, said Peterson, adding they will be safe with 24/7 parking lot security running for the duration of Fort Moore’s Oktoberfest. Guests may also consider arriving with a designated driver who can take them home at the end of the day.
Another option for soldiers and families living on Fort Moore is a free shuttle service which will go from base to Uchee Creek on Saturday only.
A full bus and event schedule for this year’s Oktoberfest celebration is available on the MWR website.