Organizers are calling the Kingsport Oktoberfest not just the biggest such event in the state but “the premier Oktoberfest in the Southeast.” It will certainly be one of the biggest beer events the Tri-Cities has hosted.
But the inaugural Kingsport Oktoberfest, set for downtown Sept. 24, won’t be just about quaffing brew. There’s a host of activities, from a mud run to a wiener dog race, a cornhole toss, Das KidZone, a bratwurst-eating contest and more.
“There’s a whole lot more to Oktoberfest than just beer,” said Stephanie Carson. She and husband Aaron are two of the main organizers. “We want it to be a family-friendly festival with something for everybody.”
The free festival will start with morning Mud, Sweat and Cheers mud runs for adults and kids — fun footraces through a mud-filled course — and then the rest of the action begins at 1 p.m., with the Bier Garden open until 5:30. Live music and other festivities will continue until about 9:30. It will be a full day of activities, and organizers expect thousands to attend.
While the festival isn’t just about drinking a lot of beer, it is about tasting beer, and there’ll be plenty of that. For a $29 ticket, people can spend the afternoon in the Craft Bier Garden, trying beers from about 25 craft breweries, many of them with the actual brewers on hand to serve and talk to the public about their beers and brewing operations.
Breweries like Craggie, Highland and French Broad from Asheville, N.C., Heinzelmannchen from Sylva, N.C., Marble City from Nashville, Duck-Rabbit from Farmville, N.C., Moccasin Bend Brewing from Chattanooga, RJ Rockers from Spartanburg, S.C., Atlanta Brewing Company and Big Daddy’s from Roanoke, Va., will be represented. Local brewers Depot Street from Jonesborough and Wolf Hills in Abingdon, Va., will also be represented, and Kingsport’s first brewery, Studio Brew, will make its debut. There’s also Beer University, which comes as part of the Craft Bier Garden ticket. Brewers will give talks about the brewing process, working with hops and yeast, infusing beers with flavors and more, and special beers will be available to sample.
The rest of the festival is free, and people who don’t buy a Craft Bier Garden ticket will be able to purchase beer from vendors. There will be plenty of food vendors plus hand-picked craft vendors from around the area.
“We are really trying to bring quality arts in for this,” Carson said, “not just things you might see all the time.”
The event will be centered around the Chamber of Commerce parking area near the Train Station, and several downtown streets will be blocked off. Oktoberfest is presented by Candy Mountain Productions and the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
There will be live music on two stages. The Main Stage will feature Velvet Truckstop, Annie Robinette, Hundred Acre and Shake Ragg. The Americana Stage will have Sons of Bluegrass, Anthony Wayne, If Birds Could Fly, Taylor Barker Band, Thursday Evening Porch Choir and Last Call.
Among the unusual events taking place:
• The Wiener Dog “Brat Tot” Race sponsored by Classy Clawz and Pawz (with competing dogs dressed in hot dog bun costumes).
• A Cornhole Toss Tournament and an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records mark for longest cornhole toss. Anyone entered in the tournament can make a record attempt, and the current recordholder, Aaron Burris from Ohio, will be present to try to better his own record. And there’s a $1,000 cash prize for the tournament winner.
• A free children’s yodeling contest.
• A Bavarian Brat Eating Contest (with participants in costume) sponsored by Freiberg’s German Restaurant. The topranked brats eater in the World League of Competitive Eating, Dale Boone, will be participating, and the winner gets $250 and the title of Tennessee State Champion.
• A one-mile beer run, the Biers, Cheers and Tears Run, where runners must try not to spill a mug of beer as they run. Proceeds benefit Speedway Children’s Charities.
The mud run events sponsored by the Marine Corps raise money for Toys for Tots.
“We’ve been to a lot of festivals and seen what works, what doesn’t and what we enjoyed,” Carson said. “So this is sort of a greatest hits for our festival. And we wanted to find a time that wasn’t during a NASCAR race or UT football.
“We’ve really tried to capture the spirit of German Oktoberfest.”
For more information, visit http://kingsportoktoberfest.com . Tickets for the Craft Bier Garden can be purchased online.