Oktoberfest kicks off with opening ceremony

Oct. 27—Downtown McAlester's first-ever downtown Oktoberfest kicked off Friday with opening ceremonies from the outdoor stage.

Vendors were filling the streets along Choctaw Avenue with others still setting up as the festival officially began.

Following Friday's opening day, the Oktoberfest festival was set to continue through Saturday, Oct. 28, and into the night along Choctaw Avenue between Fifth and Third Streets.

McAlester Mayor John Browne issued a proclamation declaring Oct.27-28 as Oktoberfest in McAlester and he later opened the first keg to officially kick-off the downtown event.

Browne got the first round from BeirKraft, a local award-winning brewery that specializes in German beers, including Marzenbeir, brewed especially during the Oktoberfest season by BeirKraft.

BeirKraft Brewmeister William "Scotty" Scott said he's glad to see an Oktoberfest celebration in downtown McAlester.

"It's been a long time coming," he said. "Williams said when he and his wife moved here in 1998, Steve DeFrange, a local brewer at the time, was allowed to set up a small beer garden — but it could only be entered through the Icehouse.

On Friday, four Oklahoma kraft breweries were expected to set up in the large tent next to the Icehouse, indicating how much things have changed.

Mayor Browne said he's glad to see Oktoberfest come to downtown McAlester.

"My thanks to all the organizers, particularly to Dennis Wilson and Mary Helfenbein, who put so much into making this event," Browne said.

Events such as Oktoberfest that bring people to McAlester is beneficial for the city, he said.

"It's set up very well and is very coordinated," Browne said of the inaugural downtown McAlester Oktoberfest.

"As it goes further, I look for it be a statewide-known event," he said.

In addition to the kraft beers, Karen Stobaugh had a wine tent set up featuring her family's three McAlester wineries: Whispering Meadows, Urban Wineworks and Country Aire Estates.

The McAlester wineries won 17 Awards at the Oklahoma State Fair in September, including Best of Show White Wine for its Whispering Meadows Insatiable Sangria.

"We also produce some German wine," Stobaugh said, including gluwein, a German wine served warm.

"We're excited to be a part of this," Stobaugh said. "We're excited to have an additional festival in the city."

Wilson, head of the Oktoberfest organizing committee, said it felt great to have the event opening following so much planning.

"It looks like it's going to be fun for everybody," he said.

Helfenbein agreed.

"It's nice to see so many vendors coming out and supporting the event," she said.

The bands WildHeart and Country Junction were set to perform on Friday evening and both were among the bands set to perform as the festival continued on Saturday.

Opening ceremonies also included a welcome by emcee Megan Waters and McAlester Police Chief Kevin Hearod leading The Pledge of Allegiance. McAlester Fire Captain Kevin Austin said the McAlester Fire Department has a triage set up at the site if needed.

Browne's proclamation noted the first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 and it is now a 213-year tradition.

Oktoberfest sprang from the idea of holding a horse race to celebrate Prince Ludwig of Bavaria's wedding, he said

In 1824, the city of Munich, Germany, awarded Michael Dall'Armi the first citizens gold medal for creating Oktoberfest.

Munich's then-Mayor Thomas Wimmer tapped the first beer barrel in 1950, beginning a tradition that continues today.

The traditional tapping of the keg. is followed by the famous words "O'zapft is" or "the keg is tapped."

"Today, Oktoberfest is the world's largest folk festival," said Browne.