Higher than normal temperatures and bright, sunny skies lasted throughout the weekend as thousands of people flocked to this year’s Oktoberfest in downtown Lee’s Summit.
Oktoberfest, which is organized by the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce and celebrated its 28th year, is the Chamber’s largest event of the year.
The organization estimates that the festival attracts 70,000 people to downtown Lee’s Summit during the weekend — with Friday and Saturday devoted to Oktoberfest-themed contests, dancing, live entertainment, stein-hoisting and German food as well as dozens of arts and crafts vendors, Kids Street and a carnival. The carnival portion continued Sunday.
Festival organizers say it’s all about offering a variety of things to do for people of all ages.
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Within the last five years, the festival has offered new activities, such as the Oktoberfest People’s Choice Home Brew Competition and the Oktoberfest Grape Stomp, which started last year.
Tim Arbeiter, Chamber president, said this year’s Oktoberfest started with strong turnout Friday night, despite the unseasonably warm weather and scheduling conflicts with several other big events in Kansas City, including the Plaza Art Fair. Organizers anticipated another large crowd Saturday night as the weather cooled down.
With help from its Oktoberfest committee and hundreds of volunteers, the Chamber puts on the festival each fall in support of the Lee’s Summit community, but also to help raise money for its organization.
It offers free admission, and relies on proceeds from food and beverage sales to bring in funds. Arbeiter said the proceeds that they raise from Oktoberfest helps the organization’s overall budget.
The money is used to keep the Chamber’s programming up-to-date for its 1,000 member businesses and to keep the cost of membership low.
According to the Chamber’s 2016 annual report, Oktoberfest accounted for 16 percent — $193,804 — of its income, and 8 percent — or $94,895 — of its expenses.
“It’s also a chance for area folks to come in and enjoy,” Arbeiter said. “We have facets that are traditional Oktoberfest, from the bands to the dancers to the German meals. People look for that, people drive in for that, because their particular community may not have that anymore, so they end up coming in to enjoy that. At the same time, too, it’s just a time for people to come together and have a good time, and that’s what we’re doing right here in Lee’s Summit.”
Stacy Needels, director of special events, added that the weekend-long festival also showcased the city’s downtown area.
“It’s also grown into a community event. People love Oktoberfest they expect it every year and having it downtown is a great way to highlight our downtown,” Needels said. “It’s just another great way to bring people to the community and show off one of its best assets.”
For more information about next year’s festival, visit www.lschamber.com.