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Weather will not dampen Oktoberfest


Sidney's 39th annual Oktoberfest promises a plethora of food options, foot stamping music and of course, free flowing suds—despite the predicted cold weather.

Featured inside the 16,000 square foot tent at the fair grounds will be 15 food vendors, which is about the same amount as last year, according to Becky Rezac, member of the Oktoberfest committee. The shooter's club will have a booth for the first time this year, offering rocky mountain oysters.

The beer gardens on the East and West ends of the tent will be filled with Beck's Oktoberfest, Bud Light, Michelob AmberBock, Budlight Lime, Shock Top and for those who wish to partake without feeling the after affects of a night out, the non-alcoholic O'Doul's.

"We'll be pretty well stocked for everybody," Jason Morrow said.

There isn't too much concern of running out of the beverage, but Morrow said he'd be just fine if they did, because that would mean sales were great.

"We have 142 kegs ordered," Morrow said. "So we shouldn't run out."

For those looking for entertainment while they imbibe (or not) there are a few new acts this year.

New entertainers this year include Alexa Winston, a singer from Windsor, Colo. who mostly plays country rock music in her local bar scene. Winston will perform on both Friday and Saturday nights. Other musical acts include the Sidney Fine Arts Center Polka Band, of which Judy Harris, who is in charge of the festival’s entertainment, is a member.

"It's been a lot of fun," Harris said. "We just have a ball."

The band has around 12 regular members.

Oktoberfest's Saturday night usually highlights 50s rock music, but this year the Stubby Shilleilaghs from Greeley, Colo. will perform Irish songs as well as some modern music with an Irish slant.

"They say they like to get people stamping their feet and clapping their hands," Harris said.

Buck'd Off, winners of the state and local Texaco Country Showdown will also be performing. Those on the Oktoberfest committee like to make sure talented local kids are featured so on Friday local dance teams and school jazz bands will perform for the crowd, as well as a showcase by a local dance school, Dance Steps, on Saturday.

Around 50 floats are registered in the parade, which is around the average amount for the celebration, according to Christine Radtke.

The parade will continue this year despite rain, cold or wind, Radtke said, but she can't guarantee that it will continue in the event of a large amount of snow like last year.

There are around eight bands participating in the parade. These bands come from around the panhandle, Radtke said. A new addition to this year’s parade are the roller derby girls from Cheyenne.

"Hopefully if it's not too wet the roller girls can skate down the road," Radtke said. "That'll be exciting."

The parade is not themed and participation is free. Those who wish to enter floats for judging need to be registered by Friday evening, for the parade on Saturday. There will be cash prizes for first, second and third place in three categories.

Of course Oktoberfest is fun for all those enjoying the entertainment, but it is also a boon to the area’s economy.

"It fills all the hotels," said Ramona Joyce, director of tourism in Sidney.

Generally people have to book hotels six months in advance of the festivities, according to Joyce. Oktoberfest brings a large amount of people to town and lodging tax revenues during the month of October are always high, Joyce said.

It's a big economic boost to area businesses, according to Joyce because when people come for just a few hours or to stay the night they might buy gas, go to a restaurant as well as the Oktoberfest tent or decide to make purchases at some of the shops. Those who perform in the parade or at the fairgrounds usually bring their families and stay for at least a night or two. It also serves to bring the community of Sidney together, Joyce said.

"The biggest thing is the parade," Joyce said. "The youngest to the oldest enjoy it."

City manager Gary Person agreed that the celebrations are positive for the community for various reasons.

"It's a wonderful thing for the community," Person said. "The volunteers do a great job."

October is always one of the best months for sales tax revenues, according to Person, when in many communities sales taxes might drop off during this month. Although the actual Oktoberfest event is outside the Sidney city limits, so it doesn’t collect city sales taxes, when people come to town for the event they do spend money inside city limits as well.

Cold weather might affect sales again this year, but at this point everything is set to go on as scheduled.

"We're kind of at the mercy of mother nature," Person said.

The Cheyenne County Sheriff's office will be patrolling the fairgrounds during the celebration, with help from Sidney Police, as needed and want to make sure that people keep safety in mind throughout the weekend.

"Please get a ride," said Cheyenne County Sheriff John Jenson. "This weekend is made for enjoyment but please do it safely."

Sidney Police will also have extra patrols focused on impaired driving.

Because of possibly icy conditions and more congestion than normal Jenson advises residents leave a little extra travel time when heading out to the festivities.

He also advises those who intend to imbibe to get another driver or use the taxi service, which was not available in years past.

The Oktoberfest tent will hold around 6,000 people at high capacity and the committee plans for a maximum attendance of 15,000 people to all the events over the course of the weekend, but that all depends on the weather, Harris said.

The committee has booked enough craft booths to fill up both buildings on the fair grounds with some additional booths outside the buildings.

The annual Oktoberfest celebration is put on by the Sidney Oktoberfest Incorporation. Harris is the Vice President of the corporation and has been the entertainment chair of the committee for more than 30 years. It is a non-profit organization.

Harris encourages residents to come to Oktoberfest no matter the temperature.

"Don't let the cold weather distract from the fun," Harris said.


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