LEAVENWORTH, Chelan County — People interested in drinking beer and listening to Bavarian music will get to enjoy those pastimes this fall, as Oktoberfest returns to the city of Leavenworth.
Oktoberfest will be back after a two-year hiatus, but it will be run by the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce and be smaller in scale, Leavenworth Mayor Carl Florea said. The city and chamber are attempting to redesign the city’s Oktoberfest, by making it more community and family friendly.
“There will be that traditional piece of the beer gardens, but there will be a smaller footprint and it will be more spread out than just in our parking areas,” Florea said.
Projekt Bayern used to manage the Leavenworth Oktoberfest, but in 2021 the city of Leavenworth rejected an application from the organization to run the festival again. The city wanted the event to be planned differently, Florea said, but Projekt Bayern’s application did not list any changes.
“They said, ‘No, we’re going to do it the same way we’ve always done it,'” Florea said. “And so, we said, ‘Well no, we really are serious about wanting to frame this in a different model.'”
Projekt Bayern decided to relocate the Leavenworth Oktoberfest to the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee. It will be happening this year over three weekends starting Sept. 30 and ending on Oct. 15. The organization is keeping the “Leavenworth Oktoberfest” name.
Both the Leavenworth and Wenatchee events will run over the same weekends and on the exact same days.
Steve Lord, who is the Oktoberfest chair with Projekt Bayern, declined to comment. Lord said he needed to talk to his lawyers about the city of Leavenworth having its own Oktoberfest event.
The Facebook page for Leavenworth Oktoberfest — the event being held in Wenatchee — contains a post that says the city of Leavenworth and Chamber of Commerce are lying to people that an Oktoberfest is happening in Leavenworth.
“The mayor decided to not sign permits and is trying to steal an event the city has never put anything into,” the post says. “This is how Carl is. Never does anything on his own.”
Florea said he’s been up front that the city and chamber planned on creating a new type of Oktoberfest event with or without Projekt Bayern’s assistance.
“I think it goes back to their thinking like they own the festival and that’s just not true,” Florea said. “They [just] ran a particular form of that festival here for a number of years.”
An Oktoberfest, though, is an internationally used term for a Bavarian-style festival that occurs in October, and the city of Leavenworth is having one, Florea said.
Florea said he does not think the Leavenworth event will compete against the Wenatchee Oktoberfest. The city did not see a downturn in tourism over the past two years, despite the lack of an Oktoberfest in the city.
“We think the valley is big enough for both,” Florea said.
The details of the exact events and activities at the festival have not been finalized and the Chamber of Commerce is still working on them, said Christie Voos, city of Leavenworth spokesperson.
The Leavenworth festival will include more family-friendly activities, such as a root beer garden for kids, according to a news release from the city. It will also have several adult beer gardens placed in the Festhalle and at the Front Street Park, to spread out the crowds.
The event will feature beer from local breweries among its offerings. That includes a special variety that will be a collaboration of three different breweries, Florea said.
The overall goal in redesigning the festival, though, has been to scale it down, Voos said.
“The size of the festival and size of our town weren’t matching,” Voos said.