Technically speaking, the Mount Angel Oktoberfest sidestepped a hiatus last year that nearly every in-person event or activity endured due to the worldwide pandemic cancelations.
The 55th Oktoberfest in 2020 was a virtual affair, with distance afforded by musical acts playing polka tunes and other Bavarian-themed melodies online, and some folks even enjoying that in the comfort of their home with a glass of beer, kraut dog, fondue or other appropriate fixings.
Realistically, a Bavarian celebration like Mount Angel's annual event is an in-person fête, and plans are to see that to fruition this year with the 56th edition, albeit with a few snags, ifs, and concerns thrown into the mix.
"We are glad to be live again this year. That's big for us," Monica Bochsler, Oktoberfest Director of Public Relations, said.
The event takes place from 11 a.m. to midnight, Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 16-19. Bringing the event to reality has been an ordeal, especially given the summer's surge in COVID-19 spread due mainly to the Delta variant. Nevertheless, the festival's board of directors has kept its eye on the ball.
"We feel confident being open. We feel the need to be open. We also recognize that COVID is going in directions right now that we hadn't expected at the beginning of the year when we were planning this. It was smooth sailing this summer, and now (the recent pandemic surge) has thrown another kink into it," Bochsler told David Endres of Mater Dai Radio in late August.
Two weeks later, the Oktoberfest.org clock continued to tick down toward the event, and organizers continued to focus on pulling it off with extensive planning allotted to ensure safety.
The 2021 theme is "The joy of being together again," while it includes an element of staying apart. The event's structure is going to be the same, except for the tables and booths that will be spread apart more than in the past.
There won't be busloads of visitors brought in from the metro area as in the past, but there will be shuttles moving people from the parking lots — a seven-acre lot on the south end of town, with an additional lot near the Pepsi plant on the north side of town.
Organizers also plan to have plenty of hand sanitizer and washing stations available, and the mask requirements will follow the state guidelines.
Leading up to it, Bochsler said the event's website has been busy with traffic, and in the past, that has been a strong predictor of the event attendance. But having people doing what is comfortable is of paramount importance.
"We know there will be a lot of people who may have (susceptible) people at home and will not want to attend, and we get that," Bochsler said. "There are also people who are ready to get out and enjoy things, and we get that too."
She recommends that the former enjoy a sausage and beer and get into the spirit in their comfortable environment, while the latter are encouraged to be vaccinated and prepared to adhere to safety guidelines in place.
The international element of the entertainment will be missing this year due to border restrictions, but there is still plenty of entertainment lined up, including Mollie B and the Squeezebox Band; dSB die Schlauberger, the wise guys from New York; Gruber Family Band, back for the Alpinegarten; Chardon Polka Band from Ohio; Salzburger Echo with the Alphorns and cowbells; Z-Musikmakers, family fun, and the classic big and brassy Festival Brass.
There will also be the large variety of food vendors, Little League, church and youth groups, and other nonprofits that rely on the festival to raise funds.
"All of our food booths are nonprofit, and that has always been part of our mission to be able to set up that fundraising opportunity for them," Bochsler said.
"This year, we are going to have a festival, and we get that everybody won't be up for it…we don't expect to break any attendance records. I think we are ready for it, and we look forward to seeing people relax and enjoy themselves."
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