Drink beer, boost economy: Oktoberfest comes to Brunswick

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BRUNSWICK — If you want to boost the economy during slow times, why not open a keg and hold a party?

That was the thinking behind the Southern Midcoast Maine Chambers’ idea to hold an Oktoberfest event in town on Sept. 21, the first of what organizers hope to be many more to come.

The event will be held under tents with a 400-person capacity outside the Knights of Columbus building at 2 Columbus Drive, and run from noon to 5 p.m. Admission will cost $45 in advance and $50 at the gate.

The Mid-Coast’s version of Oktobestfest will feature authentic German music by the Massachusetts-based Oberlaendler Hofbrau Band, keg-throwing and stein-hoisting competitions, German cuisine by Richard’s Restaurant, and Oktoberfest beer from Shipyard Brewing Co.

Steve Wallace, the chamber’s president, said his organization wanted to hold a fall event that would highlight the region’s businesses during a slow time of the year, but wouldn’t necessarily compete with events held by other business associations.

“We wanted to make sure as the regional chamber we don’t step on anyone’s toes, he said, “but nobody in our area is doing an Oktoberfest and that’s why we wanted to do it.”

The event could attract residents who might typically seek similar events outside of the area, Wallace said, but would also hope to attract visitors who might not always consider the Mid-Coast region as a destination.

“It’s about bringing awareness to what’s out there,” he said. “This was the perfect event to fill the lag (during a slow business season).”

Wallace said the event will also help diversify the chamber’s revenue and retain low dues for member businesses, which are provided a variety of chamber services including training, business seminars, and lobbyist representation in the state Legislature.

Bob Hutchins, an ex-officio member of the chamber’s board, conceived the event.

Hutchins, a former vice president of food, beverage and guest services for the Snowbird Ski Lodge near Salt Lake City, Utah, said he got the idea when he helped his former employer start an Oktoberfest event that eventually bloomed into a major attraction for the area.

“We had a lot of Swedish, German and Austrian people working in the area,” he said, “so we decided to put on a party for the employees.”

Considering the event’s name, it might seem strange for the chamber to hold Oktoberfest in September, but Hutchins said the chamber intentionally scheduled its celebration of beer to run in concert with the opening day of Munich, Germany’s 180th annual Oktoberfest.

In fact, he and Wallace said, the organizers will hold a Skype video call with Munich’s festivities on a large screen to bring the Oktoberfest homeland to Maine.

Wallace said a second Oktoberfest has already been scheduled for next year. He said the chamber hopes it will grow into a multi-day event for thousands of people, held in a different host community every year.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.