Grab your stein. Don your lederhosen. The Biergarten is open for business at the Lee’s Summit 29th annual Oktoberfest.
The Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce sponsors the weekend event which brings about 70,000 people each year into the city’s downtown. The event has become the group’s largest annual fundraiser.
The event is more than a festival of German brats, beer, schnitzel and streusel. The big crowds are “wunderbar” for local businesses. Chamber Director of Communications Stephanie Kusek says the event is a great way to show off the town.
“It brings 70,000 people to Downtown Lee’s Summit. So, it brings good exposure for our downtown businesses,” Kusek said.
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The event is like a traditional American fall festival with a carnival, crafts fair and free live music stages. However, Lee’s Summit offers its own German-ish flair for extra fun – and the excuse to drink beer or listen to the accordion.
First on tap is the Biergarten’s 7 p.m. Friday “Celebrity” Grape Stop. Four men and four women will have three minutes to stomp as much juice out of grapes with their bare feet as they can. Winners are crowned King and Queen of the Vineyard.
During the home-brew competition, sponsored by the local home brewing store Grains & Taps, 300 people will get a tasting glass and have the chance to taste unlimited samples from 25 local home brewers. They will also get to vote on their favorites during the Saturday event.
Also on Saturday, catch the Stein Hoisting Competition at 3 p.m. in the Biergarten. The object of that contest is to be the person who can hold a full liter stein up longer than anyone else. There will be both a male and female winner in that game.
The Oktoberfest Baby Contest happens before all that silliness at 11 a.m. at the Community Stage. During this event, you can show off your adorable little one (up to 36 months of age) and have everyone “ooh” and “ahh” over how cute they are. Cost is $5. Walk-in registrations start at 10 a.m. or you can register online ahead of time.
Changes this year include more music in the Biergarten and more fun on the Kids Street. The Kids Street offers free activities for children – including the popular “Rootbiergarten” where children 12 and under can enjoy a root beer at no cost. The rest of the activities on the kids street are also free. Slugger will be visiting from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Kids street opens 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday.
At the Biergarten, traditional German music and dancing is available Friday 6 p.m. to 9 p.m and Saturday 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. This year, a DJ will continue music after the German music is over until the Biergarten closes Saturday night.
An arts and crafts fair features more than 80 local artists. The carnival is open Friday, Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Kusek says the Chamber of Commerce is able to raise about $100,000 for local programming with the event. That programming helps local business owners thrive.
“I think a lot of people may not realize the variety of programming we have, from professional development seminars to high school scholarships,” Kusek said. “We really do help a lot of industries and local businesses.”
Most events start Friday evening and go through the day on Saturday, Sept. 29. The carnival only will be open the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 30.