Despite its Bavarian roots, Macon Octoberfest is a local affair – Knight Foundation

Despite its Bavarian roots, Macon Octoberfest is a local affair

Photo: A nighttime view of the tasting tent at Macon Octoberfest. Photo via festival website.

A huge white tent, food vendors, a stage and, of course, barrels of brewed ale await patrons at Octoberfest in Macon, Ga.’s Tattnall Square Park. Scheduled to take place from Oct. 23-25, this year’s event marks the third annual Macon Octoberfest–a community gathering that has already proven to be a success.

As Shannon and Lisa Harris know well, it’s hard to go wrong when brews, food and fun are combined. The couple, who own the Macon-based travel company Alpine Adventure Trails Tours, spend some six months of the year in the Swiss Alps. They are intimately familiar with the original Oktoberfest that began in the early 1800s and still takes place annually in Munich, Germany, and they spearheaded the effort to bring a version of this concept to Macon.

Inside the white tent at Macon Octoberfest. Photo via festival website.

But while the Macon version draws inspiration from the Bavarian festival, it is primarily a local event. All of the breweries, performers and merchants hail from within the state. Most of the food vendors do also, though many will be serving Oktoberfest classics like ‘fish on a stick’ (Steckerlfisch).

“The Macon Octoberfest has a mission to ‘keep it local’ by supporting the community and creating an event that is unique for this area,” said Jamie Weatherford, one of the festival organizers.

The City of Macon, Friends of Tattnall Square Park and Mercer University are major partners on Macon Octoberfest. During its inaugural year, the festival was held at Cherry Street Plaza. However, Tattnall Square Park seems to be more of a fit for the programming, which includes music in addition to the craft-beer tastings, eating and shopping. This year, 13 bands will hit the main and bier garden stages, which are sponsored by Knight Foundation grantee Bragg Jam, among others. Each evening of Macon Octoberfest will feature different genres of music: Friday is for the country-music lovers, Saturday will draw Americana, indie and rock fans, and Sunday will showcase acoustic artists.

A musician performing during Macon Octoberfest. Photo via festival website.

“This year, we did something unique by teaming up with Mercer University as an official part of their homecoming weekend,” Weatherford added. “On Friday night, Mercer students with an active ID are allowed in for free, in addition to alumni who sign up by Oct. 16 on the Mercer homecoming website.”

The breweries that will be assembled under the big tent are certainly a draw, particularly for the college crowd, but other aspects of Macon Octoberfest are designed to be family-friendly. The entrance will be decorated with hay, pumpkins, scarecrows and many other symbols that represent the fall season, and there is a Wiener Dog Race scheduled for Saturday morning. It’s a Dachshunds-only competition, followed by a costume contest for dogs of all breeds, with cash and prizes to be awarded to the winners.

The winning Wiener in the Dachshunds-only dog race? Photo via festival website.

The most impressive aspect of Macon Octoberfest is that proceeds benefit All About Animals Rescue, the Alzheimer’s Association Georgia Chapter and L.H. Harris Ecology Center. Each one of these organizations provides crucial services in the community. All About Animals Rescue is a no-kill group that places homeless or unwanted dogs and cats in loving homes. The Alzheimer’s Association Georgia Chapter leads regional fundraising, advocacy, education, training and community service efforts against the disease that ranks as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. And the L.H. Harris Ecology Center (which was founded by the same Harrises who executive produce Macon Octoberfest) creates greenhouse gardens in distressed neighborhoods in Macon, among other projects.

Macon Octoberfest is a fun event that simultaneously raises awareness and dollars for nonprofits that make the city a better place to live.