At the first-ever Oktoberfest on the Commons this weekend, participants — several clad in lederhosen — endured overcast weather to sample local beers, wines and local restaurant fare.
On Saturday, residents and students attended the event, which was co-sponsored by the Downtown Ithaca Alliance and Kilpatrick’s Publick House. Tim Gammons, Kilpatrick’s food and beverage manager and one of the event’s organizers, said he felt the turnout was impressive for the festival’s first year.
“I think it’s going very well. We’ve got a lot more people than we expected,” Gammons said during the festival. “We’re just so happy to have everyone here being part of this.”
While the event’s organizers were impressed by the turnout, some vendors said they had expected more attendees. They recalled attendance numbers at other annual festivals on the Commons, such as Chili Fest, Apple Fest and Brew Fest.
“I was at Chili Fest last year. This is a little bit slower, but I think that has to do with the weather and the fact that this is the first time,” said Will Sheavely, who was running Life’s So Sweet’s chocolate sampling station.
Gammons said he came up with the idea for Oktoberfest after Ithaca Brewery’s annual Brew Fest was canceled for 2012.
“We wanted something that would kind of imitate the idea without stealing it,” he said.
Food and beverage samples were served by local companies ranging from Ward’s Maple Products to Viva Taqueria.
“Everyone’s kind of joined in the festivities, whether they’re a German-themed restaurant or not,” said Patricia Clark, event manager for the Downtown Ithaca Alliance. “They put their spin on it.”
The festival provided an opportunity for local food and beverage producers to gain exposure in the community, Clark said.
“We think it’s important for a lot of the local brewers, winemakers and farmers who are off the beaten path, because … people don’t necessarily happen upon them,” she said. “This kind of event allows people to get a sense of what’s available right in our area, which is really great because we have a lot of wonderful local treasures.”
Ithaca resident Alex Zavaski said he took advantage of the variety of samples available Saturday.
“The event’s awesome. I like it; there’s a bunch of different places I didn’t know about, and I get to try some beers,” Zavaski said during the festival. “I’m just gonna enjoy it.”
Like many events on the Commons, Oktoberfest was free and open to the public. For those who wanted to sample the food and drink options, however, ticket packages were available for purchase.
Local bands including The Notorious String Busters, The Erik Caron Connection, and Mike Brindisi and The New York Rock performed over the course of the day, providing a lively backdrop for festival attendees and entertainment for children, who turned the center square into a dance floor.
Clark said she hopes and expects that Oktoberfest will become an annual event in Ithaca.
“The music is fun, people are enjoying themselves, there’s lots to talk about, there’s lots to taste,” she said. “This is something, like Apple Fest, where people make it an annual event and plan to go again next year. This is the first year to make a good impression so folks can come back.”