More than doubling Hickory’s population, Hickory Oktoberfest draws an estimated 100,000 people each year, who flock to the downtown for traditional German food and polka tunes, entertainment, kids’ games and rides, crafts, charitable causes and two beer gardens.That popularity caught national attention: This year, the website Funtober.com ranked Hickory’s festival 10th out of 500 Oktoberfests nationwide, based on most “liked” Facebook pages.Oct. 11-13, the 28th annual Oktoberfest will celebrate Hickory’s German heritage and offer a wide array of entertainment and activities. For a full entertainment schedule and festival map, visit www.hickoryoctoberfest.com or contact the Hickory Downtown Development Association at 828-322-1121. “Hickory Oktoberfest isn’t all about the beer and polka – it’s much, much more. It’s about families and communities and the German settlement from which Hickory arose,” said Connie Kincaid, executive director of HDDA.For those who do seek out the German traditions, the Black Mountain restaurant Berliner Kindl will serve traditional German treats like bratwurst and sauerkraut in the Pepsi Food Court, along with standard festival fare. The booming, jolly polka melodies of the Foothills Oompah Band will fill the Pavilion tent, which is modeled after a traditional German beer garden.Kincaid described how each year, couples dressed in classic lederhosen and skirts take to the stage to dance.“It’s amazing how many people know how to dance the German polka,” Kincaid said.“It really makes it feel like you’re sitting in Munich – but you’re just here in Catawba County.”Kincaid credits some of this knowledge and enthusiasm to Hickory’s German ancestry. “I think that’s one of the main reasons Hickory Oktoberfest has been so popular for so many decades (is) because it is based on the German heritage and culture of our community.” The festival will also showcase a variety of musical performances. Friday night’s local lineup on the main stage includes area favorite 20/20. Saturday highlights include Tim Reynolds and TR3 on the main stage; Reynolds is a collaborator and guitarist with Dave Matthews Band. Back by popular demand, the Alabama Blues Brothers – Jamey and Justin Crisley – perform Saturday night. The Crisleys are billed as the only true brothers in the country who pay tribute to the original Blues Brothers, Jake and Elwood Blues. Sunday, Christian band NewWorldSon will perform; the band has ranked as high as fourth on Christian music charts.In a special section dedicated to kids, families can find carnival games, amusement rides and performances by talented local youth, including Suzuki School of Music, Sonya’s Dance Academy, Foothills Gymnastics and Clayter Kaye Theaterworks.“We want (kids) to remember downtown Hickory as being the place they came and had fun,” Kincaid said.In the same Kidsfest area, all festival-goers can donate to the Castle of Cans. Oktoberfest works with Second Harvest Food Bank to donate canned goods to local hunger relief organizations. Boy Scouts stack the cans into a towering castle, which will stand until 3 p.m. Sunday. Last year’s festival collected 16,000 pounds of food.Originally a vision of local resident Susan Coleman and Oktoberfest founder Beemer Harrell, the Castle of Cans has now lost both of its visionaries. In honor of Coleman, who passed away this August, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church is now coordinating the castle-building and canned food drive.Oktoberfest attendees can also support community causes by lacing up their running shoes for the Carolina Orthopaedic Specialists’ Footrace. The race starts at 8 a.m., with both a 5K and a 10K. Proceeds support hospices in Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, and Catawba counties. Application forms for the race are available at www.hickoryoctoberfest.com/oktoberfest-footrace.Kincaid explained that the festival prioritizes partnerships with local charitable groups.“The community is so good to come out and support our festival that we decided we would use the event as an incentive to give back,” Kincaid said.Oktoberfest also spotlights local talent, demonstrating how Hickory lives up to its new motto, “Life. Well-Crafted.”On the stage under the sails, master craftsman Eddie Hamrick will display his woodwright skills. In his more than 40 years as a woodworker, Hamrick has been ranked as seventh-best furniture designer in the world, and has been commissioned for pieces by six U.S. presidents. Hamrick will demonstrate how he crafts instruments and wooden sculptures. The stage will also showcase potters and stained-glass makers.“We were looking to show folks coming in from out of town as well as local residents that we are well-crafted,” said Kincaid. “We have so many local artisans and craftsmen right here in our community.”Other vendors will sell their crafts on Union Square, and many downtown stores will also open their doors for business.The nonprofit area will provide free materials and information about local organizations, including BAYADA nurses offering free blood pressure checks.“It’s exciting – there are so many little whirlwinds all around that are making this happen,” said Kincaid.“Just come to the festival and be merry.”
Saturday, Oct. 05, 2013
Hickory Oktoberfest returns Oct. 11-13
Julia Sendor is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Julia? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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