Oktoberfest, one of Iowa City’s longest-standing festivals, returns to the Northside neighborhood Saturday, Sept. 23 for its 27th year, boasting classic traditions and new experiences.
Like most events in the downtown district, Oktoberfest aims to bring in support for local businesses. The traditional Oktoberfest in Munich encourages the same, allowing guests to enjoy numerous entertainment acts, whether live music or games, with various food.
Iowa City’s Oktoberfest allows guests to fully immerse themselves in the bohemian nature of the downtown district.
“I also think it’s important for people to feel a sense of place and purpose,” said Katie Carpenter, director of special events at the Iowa City Downtown District. “Participating in community events only leads to fun experiences and new connections. What better way to spend a Saturday than to connect with family, friends, and strangers over a glass of beer and German Bratwurst,”
Saturday’s Brewfest opens at 11 a.m. and runs until 3 p.m., but the Bierfest begins at noon and goes until 6 p.m., wrapping up just in time for Iowa’s road game against Penn State.
Iowa City’s Oktoberfest celebration has expanded over the years. The festival was initially held in the Pagliai’s Pizza parking lot. Now, it spans from Burlington St. to Market St.
Third-generation owner of John’s Grocery and festival coordinator Doug Alberhasky says Oktoberfest is “From around the block to around the world,” with more than 30 Iowa beers being showcased at the festival, demonstrating Iowa’s growth as a leader in beer distribution.
However, Oktoberfest is a family-friendly event, with Sodafest being held in the Pagliai’s parking lot. Tickets for unlimited soda samples and souvenir cup are available on the day of the festival for $5. Sodafest was created by Alberhasky’s son when he was in the fifth grade, partnering with the Iowa Children’s Museum.
Sodafest offers children-friendly activities, including glitter tattoos, an obstacle course, and other interactive fall activities. Live entertainment will be offered during the main festivals, including music from local acts and returning fan favorites, like the brat-eating contest and the German spelling bee. Keg throwing has also been added to the schedule this year.
More: Iowa City City Council considering code amendments to incentivize affordable housing construction
Tickets for Oktoberfest went on sale in June, though packages are still available for purchase. Brewfest tickets cost $68 and grant access to exclusive and unlimited samplings from more than 40 different vendors. Tickets also include a customized 2023 Northside Oktoberfest glass, a $10 gift card to eat and shop at Northside businesses, and access to entertainment activities.
Bierfest tickets cost $10 and provide attendees with an official Bier Hall Mug where they can purchase wine or beer at the Northside bars and restaurants. The glass allows one free beer pour and the drinks can be enjoyed along designated downtown streets.
More: More than 130 rescued dogs are groomed, happy and nearly ready for adoption at IC Animal Care Facility
Anyone is welcome to attend Saturday’s Oktoberfest, but to reap all benefits, the Iowa City Downtown District suggests buying a ticket to either one or both events.
Jessica Rish is an entertainment, dining and business reporter for the Iowa City Press-Citizen. She can be reached at JRish@presscitizen.com.