The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

CU Oktoberfest celebrates German culture, 10th anniversary

Nathan Gonzalez
The Musikmeisters performs at Champaign-Urbana’s Oktoberfest, hosted at the corner of Washington and Neil St. on Saturday.

The Developmental Services Center’s 10th annual Oktoberfest fundraiser brought together the Champaign-Urbana community for a night full of live music, beer, food and supporting a good cause. 

The fest, held Sept. 30, from 3-10 p.m. on the corner of North Neil and East Washington streets in downtown Champaign, included alcohol from local breweries, food trucks, a kids zone and live music from the traditional German bands Die Musikmiesters and The Polkaholics. 

According to their website, the DSC is a nonprofit organization with a long history of providing services and support to children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and currently serves approximately 1,200 people in Champaign and Ford counties.

“They put on an amazing event, stages with live music, food trucks, multiple beer vendors. I mean this thing is just huge. It compares very favorably to any other Oktoberfest in the area,” said Darren Riggs, one of the vendors at Oktoberfest.

Jan Aten, a DSC volunteer, said many are drawn to the fest because of the alcohol, but also because it allocates resources to those in need.

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“The beer first, but this is also a very good cause that serves a lot of people … and the majority of their funding I think comes from donation and their fundraisers,” Aten said.

The fundraiser housed a variety of traditional German beers, as well as traditional German food sold from local food trucks. Some of the food trucks present were Watson’s Chicken, Smithburger Food Line and Ice Daddy’s Frozen Treats.

Oktoberfest attendees over 21-years-old could buy a commemorative 10th-anniversary mug to hold their beer. One of the most popular selections of beer appeared to be the seasonal “Oktoberfest” beer, brewed by the locally sourced Riggs Beer Company, owned by brothers Darren Riggs and Matt Riggs. 

The “Oktoberfest” beer was in high demand, and Riggs said preparation included setting aside enough kegs of the beer for the event.

The Riggs Brew Company has a history rooted in German beer-making, as they have studied the craft there. Darren Riggs explained Oktoberfest was a good way to showcase their abilities.

“I think (Oktoberfest) is a great opportunity to support local businesses,” Said Riggs. “Also, to kind of be a central gathering place for people to celebrate a fun German tradition.” 

Many community members walked around with a commemorative stein — a large glass mug — in one hand, and a Bavarian pretzel or chicken schnitzel in the other. 

Once Oktoberfest-goers had paid the $10 entrance fee, they were greeted with tables selling tickets for food and drinks, as well as a merchandise table including sweatshirts, T-shirts and bandanas. According to Oktoberfest, a portion of the proceeds goes to support DSC’s mission.

In one of the tents, people were eating, talking and dancing to the live music performed by Die Musikmeisters and The Polkaholics. The music ranged from traditional German music to popular hits like “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. 

In front of the musicians, there was a dance floor that many attendees used.

One of the focuses of traditional Oktoberfest is the beer, which can exclude a younger population from participating in the festivities. However, Oktoberfest possessed a “Kid Zone” which included activities such as pumpkin painting, a bounce house and several fall-themed games. 

Dave Markun, a musician, walked around the event and played the button box harmonika. Markun said he’s been playing the traditional German instrument for 18 years. 

“It’s an unusual instrument, so being able to walk around and getting people to sing and things — it’s a fun thing for them,” Markun said. “I think people get into it too, being here at Oktoberfest, it’s very festive.”  

As Markun played his buttonbox, people stopped what they were doing to listen. Children even ran and danced in circles around him.

Jade Merrit and Anna Ashton, graduate students in the Curriculum and Instruction Program, were both first-time Oktoberfest attendees. 

“My favorite part is getting to see all of the different outfits,” Ashton said. “You can really see who’s been enjoying these festivals for a while and who might be a first-time enjoyer like we are.”

Several community members, including Markun, were dressed in traditional German clothing. 

Champaign resident Betsy Waller said she spent 40 hours making her traditional dirndl, a German dress typically worn by women. 

Waller said that in addition to getting an excuse to dress up in costume, Oktoberfest is a great place for people to enjoy the community, try German beer and raise money for the DSC.

Matt Mager, another Champaign resident and University alum, was dressed in lederhosen, the traditional German outfit for men. 

Emma Lachs, University alum and current Champaign resident, said she believed events like Oktoberfest are important because of the sense of community.

“I feel like, without that, people get very lonely and this is a really great opportunity to go and immerse yourself,” Lachs said. 


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