CHOCTAW, OKLAHOMA — The volunteers come early to work, and stay late to sample.
The night before the actual start of Choctaw’s Oktoberfest, the tents are set up, the chairs are mostly in place.
“I have no idea how many chairs are here,” laughs one sweaty volunteer. “As long as they’re here I’ll keep moving.”
A small army of volunteers sign in for orientation first.
“A little bit of community service and a little bit of pride,” says another volunteer. “It’s also fun and Oktoberfest.”
Founder and organizer Mike Turek says a few words of welcome and then darts off to direct more traffic. “I just want to say thanks for coming out,” he tells the approximately 100 assembled.
“How big is this set up?” asks a first time visitor.
“It’s a 160 acre park and we’re taking up about 80 acres with parking and everything,” says Turek.
He’s been setting up this temporary facility for the past ten days, planning for months, and living for Oktoberfest for most of his life.
The Tureks came to Choctaw nearly 40 years ago from Germany.
Mike was just a kid then.
His parents opened the Old Germany restaurant in 1976.
Five years ago their annual Oktoberfest celebration completely outgrew their location on SE 29th Street.
“Finally, we got to about 80-thousand people and there was no place to park,” recalls Turek.
“Our parking lot had tents on it so everyone was parking up and down 29th Street. They had to walk a mile to come to Oktoberfest. So they said, ‘Mike, we love you but we don’t love you that much.’ And I said, ‘Okay.’”
Choctaw Creek Park is home now for the annual festival.
Turek brought in 51 different kinds of beer for visitors to sample, but he likes to include the rest of the family too.
Walking past a climbing wall and a long row of inflatables he points out, “It’s not just for adults.”
It is a celebration, after all.
Originally a two week long wedding party between Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and his bride Therese.
It doubled as a feel good, excuse to imbibe in a great German invention called beer.
The volunteers on the night before Choctaw’s Oktoberfest begins aren’t even fazed that Mike serves them pizza on what he calls Preview Night’.
Around here, it’s just another pretzel with tomato sauce and melted cheese.
Choctaw’s annual Oktoberfest runs from August 30 through September 7 at Choctaw Creek Park on North Harper Street.
For more information go to http://www.choctawfestival.org/oktoberfest