BERLIN — While Octoberfest is a tradition in many parts of the world, it’s not a celebration that Berlin has ever officially participated in. The Chamber of Commerce has decided to change that this year and in a big way.
“This is a new event,” Economic Development Director Mike Day told the Mayor and Council at their meeting Monday night.
Though the event is months away, town and business officials are already starting to lay the groundwork for a big celebration.
“We’re hoping the whole week can be dedicated to it [the festival],” said Town Administrator Tony Carson.
The plan so far is to encourage restaurants like The Globe and The Atlantic Hotel to roll out German and Bavarian menus during the week. There will likely be a polka band and other similar attractions. But the main hook will be the partnership between Berlin and Burley Oak Brewery, the exclusive beer distributor at the event.
Owner Bryan Brushmiller plans on coming up with a special German-style beer to mark the occasion. Brushmiller told the council that creating an appropriate beer will be easy, since he recently hired a brewmaster who has been trained in German-style brewing.
Mayor Gee Williams thought the festival had promise and filled a longstanding vacancy in Berlin’s calendar of events. He pointed out that the summer is a busy time for Berlin, but that tapered off going into autumn after the Fiddlers Convention.
“Then we have a lull in October,” he said. “We don’t have any big event to keep the town front and center.”
By adding an Octoberfest, Williams hopes Berlin will continue to draw in crowds throughout the year. He expressed satisfaction that Burley Oak, the first microbrewery in Worcester County, will be a highlight of the festival. Berlin had to go so far as to change its laws to allow the brewery to set up shop in the area, something the council holds as a benchmark showcasing the town’s business friendly attitude.
“We want to leverage that as much as we can,” said Williams.
The festival will mark the first time that the town will distribute alcohol at an event and will require Berlin to get a temporary alcohol permit from the county. Day played down the significance of Berlin distributing beer. He said the proposed beer garden on Jefferson Street isn’t unusual because there has been “sort of a beer garden atmosphere” at other events.
“‘Sort of’ and ‘have’ are not the same thing,” said Councilwoman Paula Lynch.
She said that the merits of the event were obvious and that she had faith in how the town would run the festival.
“But I don’t have faith in the beer drinkers,” she said.
“Well, if you have Octoberfest you have to have beer,” joked Councilmember Lisa Hall.
Day was quick to assert that the festival would be kept in-line with all town events. He didn’t predict any more trouble than usual.
“It’s a family event,” he said, saying that even with beer being served, the emphasis for the festival would be on creating a family-friendly experience with food, music and activities. The drinking would only be one part of the equation.
Councilman Troy Purnell, who told the assembly that he has attended multiple Octoberfests in other areas, supported Day’s belief that everything would run smoothly.
“I’ve yet to see a rowdy crowd [at an Octoberfest],” he said.
Lynch and the rest of the council decided to grant the chamber a permit to hold the event and asked for updates as preparations are finalized.
“These are exciting times,” said Williams.
Berlin’s Octoberfest is currently scheduled for Oct. 15.