2023 Oktoberfest underway

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2023 Burgermeister Dale Greer arrives in style as the head of the 2023 Oktoberfest parade on Thursday, Sept. 28. The opening ceremony took place soon after. (Martha Needham)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Visitors to Cullman this weekend may see a very different Warehouse District than what they’re used to…men in funny-looking overalls (lederhosen), women in flower crowns, tall steins of frothy beer and the pervading scent of pretzels and brats. No, it’s not Munich, Bavaria or the set of “The Sound of Music”; it’s Oktoberfest in Cullman, and it’s officially underway. This year’s Oktoberfest is made even more special because it coincides with the 150th anniversary of the founding of the City of Cullman.

Thursday’s festivities ushered in a three-day celebration of the city’s German heritage combined with our deep Southern roots; the evening began with a short parade through Cullman’s Warehouse District. Ushered in by the lively polka tunes of Good Bellows and arriving in style via horse-drawn carriage, 2023 Burgermeister Dale Greer waved to the crowd while fair maidens in dirndls and flower crowns with flowing ribbons from Brooke Desnoes Ballet Academy danced behind. Performers on stilts and jugglers kept the crowd entertained as coordinators set up the main stage.

Hundreds of attendees, heads bowed, crowded the stage as Rev. John Richter opened the ceremony in prayer, both in German and English. Sponsors were thanked and past burgermeisters were recognized, along with direct descendants of Colonel Cullman himself sitting proudly in the front row.

Then came the passing of the torch, or the passing of the Burgermeister medal, when 2022 Burgermeister Mike Mullaney proudly declared, “I’m here to pass the torch to what I think is the ultimate selection for Burgermeister!”

Greer graciously accepted the medal and noted his excitement in a brief address, saying “I can’t tell you what an honor it’s been to go around the community this past week. I’ve been to some of the schools with Ben Harrison, and a number of the company sponsors,” he laughed, mentioning the mixed reviews he gets from his traditional German garb.

Greer also noted the special relevance of this year’s Oktoberfest, and the significance of the 150th anniversary the community will be celebrating through the end of the year.

“The kickoff of Oktoberfest is a great event. It actually is the beginning of the celebration of the 150-year history of Cullman,” he exclaimed, to great applause. “Thank you so much for the honor of being here. I’m representing a great group of guys- and girls -who have been here for so many years!”

Then came the recognition of Miss Oktoberfest: a harrowing game of chance between Cullman County Fair Queen representatives, all hoping to be the lucky fraulein with a pretzel in her cupcake. After a few cautious nibbles, the girls dove in, with Kaylee Windsor from Cold Springs High School coming out victorious.

The rowdy crowd then settled into the Hofbräuhaus to witness the ceremonial tapping of the keg, brewed by Goat Island. The Tribune put forth the challenge to Greer to beat the Munich average number of attempts; Greer rose to the challenge amid a roaring crowd and matched it in two swings – after a swift hit to the thumb! Steins were then thrust into the fray to catch the spray of the keg, with the first 200 attendees set to get a free pour.

After the keg tapping, the party was in full swing as attendees weaved in and out from biergarten to biergarten, munching currywurst and pretzels while being serenaded by Good Bellows. Brat eating and costume contests brought out fierce competition on the main stage, while only the strong survived in the stein hoisting competition in the Hofbräuhaus.

If you missed out on the fun of Thursday’s opening ceremony, or Friday’s evening of events, make sure to attend Saturday for the annual wiener dog race, live music and even more contests open to all ages!

For more information, go to www.cullmanoktoberfestival.com.

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