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For Town of Vienna, Oktoberfest is a community group effort

Kids have fun with hula hoops at Vienna’s 2019 Oktoberfest (courtesy Vienna Business Association)

After a year off, Oktoberfest will return to the Town of Vienna tomorrow (Saturday), bringing with it a beer and wine garden, live entertainment, and a slightly pared-down assortment of food, craft, and retail vendors.

Now in its 13th iteration, the festival will unfold from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in its customary site between Maple Avenue and Ayr Hill Road, with the biergarten and main tents set up in the parking lot next to the Red Caboose.

Vienna Oktoberfest is organized by the Vienna Business Association, serving as the chamber of commerce’s main annual fundraiser, but it also depends on the support of dozens of local community groups, VBA Executive Director Peggy James says.

“We are so grateful to huge amount of participation we have received from our local Vienna non-profit organizations for their volunteer support and sponsor support in the festival this year,” James said. “As always, our goal is to provide a safe and fabulous festival that is welcoming to people of all ages. The enormous amount of support we have had this year will ensure this happens.”

Many groups, such as the Rotary Club of Vienna, the local Shepherd’s Center, the Stroke Comeback Center, and even James Madison High School’s crew team, have members volunteering at the festival. Others are participating through sponsorships, which range in cost from $200 to $5,000 for the platinum title.

This year’s food court sponsor is One Neighborhood Foundation, the nonprofit that Vienna VA Foodies co-founder Lydia Russo started in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to help local restaurants by delivering meals to first responders and food-insecure residents.

Russo says the foundation “is very excited” to be part of Vienna Oktoberfest for the first time after providing “thousands and thousands” of meals over the past 18 months or so through its own efforts and by organizing fundraisers for other nonprofits.

The group raised $20,000 in just one day in June 2020 when it turned to the Vienna VA Foodies Facebook group to support Martha’s Table, a D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to healthy food, education, and other resources for families.

Even after all that work, though, Oktoberfest will represent the first opportunity to meet in person for many of the community members who have gotten involved with One Neighborhood Foundation.

“We plan to enjoy the beautiful atmosphere, all while staffing our tent which will be fundraising for future food deliveries,” Russo said by email.

Addressing food insecurity is also the top focus of Rustic Love Vienna, which will be staffing Vienna Oktoberfest’s beer tent on Mill Street and selling its signature heart yard signs and other merchandise from its own tent on Dominion Road.

Still volunteer-led, the group was the brainchild of eight local children who came up with the heart signs as a way to support Vienna VA Foodies’ philanthropic efforts.

“Our sole mission is to raise money to help the food-insecure in our area,” Rustic Love Vienna Executive Director Michelle Davila said. “Food insecurity is always closer than you’d imagine and it was only heightened by the pandemic.”

While all proceeds from alcohol sales will go to the VBA Foundation, which will use the revenue to fund future events and grants for nonprofits and community service groups, Vienna Oktoberfest patrons will be able to contribute to Rustic Love Vienna directly by giving tips to the Mill Street beer tent volunteer staffers.

Beer tips will also help Family Preservation and Strengthening Services (PASS), a nonprofit founded in 2006 by Vienna resident Suzette Steinhardt that assists Fairfax County families at risk of homelessness.

Family PASS has been involved in Vienna Oktoberfest since the festival’s beginning, recruiting around 60 volunteers over the past 12 years to pour beer, according to board member and volunteer coordinator Patti Cooksey.

Tomorrow, the organization will also host an art booth to sell hundreds of original pieces that it received as donations from Oakton resident and artist Pat Strickler. Family PASS will use all proceeds from the art sales to directly help families in its program.

“Helping families in our own backyard benefits everyone in our community,” Cooksey said. “The families that we assist are highly motivated to regain their self-sufficiency. We provide various services and counseling to give our families the tools they need to succeed. Please help us help them.”

Vienna Oktoberfest’s art section will also feature an activity table for children in a tent staffed by artists with the Vienna Arts Society, whose members will also be scattered across Church Street, capturing the festival in plein air paintings.

“The Vienna Arts Society is fortunate to be part of a town where all organizations work together to support and promote each other,” Communications Chair Doré Skidmore said.

Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert echoed that sentiment in a statement to Tysons Reporter, calling the town’s many nonprofit organizations “true pillars of the community.”

“Because of their support, the Town is able to offer quality, large-scale, family events and celebrations like Oktoberfest, which bring the community together in such a positive way,” Colbert wrote. “These organizations’ support is also the reason many local food-insecure families and struggling businesses were able to survive the pandemic, and their commitment and service to our community is truly inspiring.”

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