Crowds were down, but spirits were still high during a rainy Oktoberfest.
The 30th annual downtown Lee’s Summit event usually draws about 75,000 people during a three-day run. Matt Eaird, interim president for the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce, estimated crowds were down by about 20,000 this year due to rain and storms, but those who attended still had a great time.
“All the brat tents and stages were filled and the Bier Garden was full when it was raining. Considering the ups and downs on the weather, we have done really well,” Eaird said.
Tables were dry in the Bier Garden tent, where people gathered from across the metro area for a German-style dinner and Kansas City beers on tap. Dancers from the Kansas City Blautaler Schuhplattler group entertained the crowd with traditional German dress and dancing. The dancers come from across the city. Many of the men are veterans of the armed services.
Shawnee resident Chris Beckley, an Air Force veteran, came out with his family to dance in the Bier Garden with the Blautaler Schuhplattler group. Beckley says the folk dancing helps preserve the Southern Bavarian heritage and dancing that is unique to Austria and Southern Bavaria.
“This is a hobby. I have been involved in this kind of thing since I was a teenager,” Beckley said.
Most festival-goers who braved the rain said the bad weather didn’t deter them from Oktoberfest.
Matthew Borchers from Warrensburg drove in to meet friends from Liberty. The group enjoyed the event for hours with sprinkles and threats of rain.
“It is really family friendly and fun, despite the rain,” Borchers said.
Lee’s Summit residents Dale and Jodie James brought two furry family members, Ruby and Luna, into the rain. The dogs got some special treats from one of the vendors.
“We came out before it was raining, but it didn’t drive us away,” Jodie James said.
Heavy rains did shut down the carnival on Saturday evening. Vendors also packed up early when showers got heavy, but by and large, the festival kept everyone in good spirits.
“The vendors have been great. They’ve been dealing with wet weather all summer and fall,” Eaird said. “So, they have been very cooperative in regards to the weather. They have been prepared.”
Oktoberfest is presented yearly by the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce. It is the largest annual fundraiser for the organization. Money raised at the event goes to help with business growth programming and networking opportunities for chamber members.