CHOCTAW — Just minutes after Choctaw Mayor Randy Ross performed the ceremonial tapping of the keg, Mike Turek placed his stein under the spigot and filled it with a frothy German beer.
Before the foamy head had a chance to settle, he raised the mug above his head, made a toast and led the appreciative crowd at the Choctaw Oktoberfest in singing “Ein Prosit,” the Bavarian cheer that ushers in every Oktoberfest in Munich.
The Friday ceremony marked the 22nd time Turek has presided over the celebration that serves up large portions of German food, authentic German beer and lively German music.
Turek and his family, owners of Old Germany Restaurant, held the inaugural festival in 1991 behind their business at SE 29 and S Indian Meridian Road. About 1,500 people attended, choosing food from a limited menu and drink from an even smaller selection of beers.
This week, Turek is expecting 50,000 guests, and he promises they will have plenty to eat and drink.
Attracting visitors from across the country, Oktoberfest was expanded this year into a nine-day event. Five years ago, organizers relocated to a more spacious venue with plenty of free parking at Choctaw Creek Park, on the west side of Harper Road between NE 10 and NE 23. This year's festival continues daily through Sept. 8.
Food, music, beer
Workers have gathered the past few weeks to peel and slice 6,000 potatoes that will be turned into 5,000 pounds of potato salad. Turek ordered 1,600 pounds of ham hocks and 3,000 pounds of bratwurst.
While satisfying the palate is an important goal of any Oktoberfest, Turek knows beer is a prime attraction, so he has 600 kegs to satisfy the thirst of visitors, pointing to 46 different taps extending from the fronts of beer trailers.
Many of the beers are imported from Germany.
“You will be able to drink the same beer here that will be served in Munich during their Oktoberfest in a few weeks,” he said. Wines will be available, too, and soft drinks and water will be free to designated drivers wearing wristbands. Taxi service will be available as well.
Once visitors pass beneath the banner with the German words of welcome, “Wilkommen zum Oktoberfest,” they are likely to hear the sounds of accordions, tubas and clarinets coming from the stage where four bands take turns entertaining guests seated at long tables.
Three of the bands have been playing at the festival more than 15 years. The bands come from Texas but have names that suggest they might hail from Bavaria: AlpenMusikanten, from Dallas, and Alpenfest from Houston. The Chicken Dance draws hundreds to the dance floor.
Adding extra days isn't the only change, Turek said. For the first time, outside vendors who serve grilled onion burgers, hot dogs, roasted corn and roasted nuts have been given tent space. Three large-screen televisions will show sporting events, and a non-German band will provide music in another tent.