Vienna set for Oktoberfest return after last year’s pandemic-induced dry spell

A man drinks beer at the Town of Vienna’s 2018 Oktoberfest (courtesy Vienna Business Association/Facebook)

Break out the beer steins and lederhosen.

While the original Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, has been canceled for a second year in a row, the Town of Vienna is bringing back its iteration of the annual folk festival on Oct. 2 after it got stricken from the calendar last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Vienna Town Council approved a memorandum of understanding with the Vienna Business Association (VBA), which helps organize the event, as part of the consent agenda in its meeting last night (Monday), setting the terms of their partnership.

Oktoberfest serves as the VBA’s main fundraiser, according to Executive Director Peggy James, who says the revenue it generates is crucial to keeping the organization going and enabling it to maintain low membership fees so that small businesses aren’t excluded.

“Our goal is to have a safe, outrageously fun event that raises lots of money so that the VBA is able to continue to support our community and the wonderful service organizations that help make this Town so special,” James said by email.

Like previous versions of the festival, the 13th annual Vienna Oktoberfest will be held around Church Street and the Town Green. It will last from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a beer and wine garden, food vendors, live music, children’s activities, a marketplace, and more.

Since the novel coronavirus remains a concern, this year’s festival will likely have fewer vendors and more spacing, James says.

Additional measures could include scheduled cleanings in the kids’ area and dining tents, signs and ground markers with social distancing reminders, and a mask requirement for volunteers. If current recommendations hold, masks will be strongly suggested for attendees when they’re not actively drinking or eating.

The VBA’s MOU with the town commits it to adhering to all local, state, and federal health guidelines related to COVID-19.

“If the CDC guidelines change, we are prepared to alter our event to be fully compliant,” James said.

Oktoberfest will benefit from the Town of Vienna’s growing experience with organizing large outdoor events amid the fluctuating conditions of the pandemic, from ViVa Vienna — which became the first event of that scale in Fairfax County when it returned at the end of May — to the 2021 Virginia State Little League Majors Tournament in July.

Most recently, the first Chillin’ on Church block party drew approximately 2,500 people on Aug. 20, according to Town of Vienna Parks and Recreation Director Leslie Herman, who says the return of major events “has gone very well” so far.

“Viva Vienna required extensive planning in order to abide by the regulations of the [governor] of VA and recommendations of the Fairfax County Health Dept and CDC in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Herman wrote in an email. “Due to Viva Vienna’s extensive planning, the Vienna Business Association is able to utilize that event’s model should there be similar restrictions in October.”

In past years, Oktoberfest has gotten between 20,000 and 25,000 visitors over the course of a day, according to James.

Organizers anticipate having about 60 vendors, though applications are being accepted until Sept. 7.

Proceeds from wine and beer sales will go to the VBA Foundation, which supports local nonprofits and community service organizations. James says the foundation has especially focused on efforts to address food insecurity over the past 17 months.

Other Oktoberfest revenue, including vendor and sponsor fees, will cover the costs of putting on the festival and help the VBA support other events in the Town of Vienna, including the Halloween Parade and Taste of Vienna.

Organizers say the festival also helps the town by bringing in meals taxes from participating food vendors and attracting visitors.

“Vienna Oktoberfest also attracts visitors from outside the Town of Vienna, thereby showing off our Town and encouraging them to revisit and also to shop/eat at our local businesses,” Oktoberfest Committee Chair Kathy Georgen said by email.

Courtesy Vienna Business Association/Facebook

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