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Nothing rains on Oktoberfest

Downtown Minnesota Street was bustling early morning Saturday during New Ulm’s Oktoberfest. Despite a cold morning drizzle, crowds flocked to the artisan craft fair.

NEW ULM — The COVID-19 pandemic and an early morning rain could not stop all Oktoberfest activities in New Ulm.

A craft and vendor show kept downtown Minnesota Street active Saturday, and a few venues were able to host live music to keep the tradition going for another year.

Two separate artisan craft festivals were held in downtown New Ulm. The annual Oktoberfest craft show was held on 1st North Street between Minnesota Street and Broadway, with approximately 20 vendors. Maker Fair Minnesota teamed up with the New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce to bring MakerFest. Around 70 vendors lined Minnesota Street from Center to 3rd North. The event was similar to the Crazy Days festival held in late July, but with a seasonal twist.

The two craft fairs began operating at 10 a.m. Early there was concern the event would be rained out. A drizzle hit New Ulm around the start of the festival, but the rain ended quickly and the sun was out by noon.

A sizable crowd did attend the craft festival and remained downtown for most of the day. Multiple food trucks and food vendors also attended the festival. Many attendees stay for lunch and dinner.

Joni’s Restaurant had a food stand outside serving traditional Oktoberfest food, such as brats, spaetzle, sauerkraut and German potato salad. Staff were busy throughout the lunch rush and lost count of how much food they served, but the spaetzle and gravy went over very well with patrons.

The vendors were taken precaution against COVID. Masks were worn and hand sanitizer was available.

“Things are going fantastic,” Chamber President Michael Looft said.” It super safe outdoor shopping. People are getting their holiday shopping done.”

Some people did lament older traditions. Early in the day, some expressed sadness that fewer people were dressing in Oktoberfest garb. It was the first Oktoberfest in which face masks outnumber dirndl and lederhosen. However, the dirndl and lederhosen enthusiasts did join the festivities. For others, the greatest loss was the live music. Typically, Center Street between Minnesota and Broadway would be roped off and feature live bands and dancing. To compensate, the Chamber played polka music over the downtown PA system a little louder than normal.

Those who missed the live music were able to attend shows at The Lamplighter, State Street Theater and Best Western Plus/Green Mill. These venues had to follow strict masking policies and limit patrons to tables.

State Street Theater originally planned to hold music outside on the front steps of the theater, but the early morning rain caused problems with the electrical system, forcing the event indoors to the main stage.

Lamplighter featured live music all through the weekend with Dain’s Dutchmen on Saturday and Generation Gap on Sunday.

Overall, fest-goers were pleased with this alternative Oktoberfest. Though many preferred the Oktoberfests of past years, people understood the health concerns and were willing to adapt.

Oktoberfest will continue next weekend. The Oktoberfest craft show will return to 1st Street on Oct.10. Best Western Plus will host live music on the Green Mill patio and in the conference space with music from Crista Bohlmann.

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