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Oktoberfest brings taste of Germany to Joliet

For one day, Joan Bisping felt a little bit more German than she actually is, during a celebration at Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park Theatre’s inaugural Oktoberfest.

“I have some German in me,” the Joliet resident said, watching as a polka band performed live music.

The event was held Saturday, featuring a weiner dog race, stein holding contest, music and dancing.

Event organizers started planning last spring for Oktoberfest. About that time, they started talking with the owners of MyGrain Brewing Company about selecting beer for the event.

“We wanted to do a traditional event,” said Lori Carmine, park manager for Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park Theatre. “Shorewood and Tinley Park have an Oktoberfest. We did some research on similar type[s] of events held in nearby communities.”

Carmine said event organizers wanted to find a new way to bring people together for free fun.

“We used to have a fall festival,” Carmine said. “It was a pumpkin fest, and it got to be too huge. We thought another event would be great. There aren’t too many Oktoberfests around here.”

As its history denotes, the city of Joliet has long-held connections to German heritage.

Joliet resident Laura Piazza said she was looking forward to celebrating her roots.

“My dad and I used to go polkaing,” she said. “I like the music.”

Piazza stood watching as a polka band performed live music for the crowd to enjoy during the event.

“I think everyone likes to learn about different cultures,” she said. “People like trying the food, music, and beer.”

Joliet resident Brian Campus was among a group of pet owners at the event, collecting prizes after the completion of the weiner dog race.

“It’s more family-friendly and pet-friendly,” he said, referring to Oktoberfest. “Being an owner of two dachshunds, it appealed to me.”

Campus is the owner of a pair of dachshunds named Yoda and Jedi, both of which came dressed as hot dogs. The two earned the right to take home a stuffed squeaker toy and a bone.

“I got [Jedi] his favorite treats,” he said, referring to the key to success. “He saw that, and he came running.”

The Oktoberfest celebration did not serve as a first for Campus. He said he has attended similar types of events held elsewhere.

Campus said that hearing of MyGrain Brewing Company’s plan to create beer for the event played a part in his decision to come out.

“I was interested in tasting that,” he said.

Bisping said choosing to attend Oktoberfest in Joliet was a good idea.

“I’m enjoying the breeze, the band,” she said. “We did some contests.”

The event served as the first of two Oktoberfest celebrations planned the same day for Bisping.

“I just think they’re fun, in general,” she said.

Channahon resident Ray Duckmanton shared that sentiment, saying he thinks Oktoberfest celebrations are generally popular events, in part, because “it’s that time of year when summer is winding down.”

Duckmanton had found information about the event online and decided to check it out with a friend.

“I hang out at most fairs and events,” he said. “Usually, there are worthy causes to support. The event does a good job of bringing the community together.”

Piazza commended the city of Joliet and the Will-Joliet Bicentennial Park Theatre Organization for sponsoring and putting on Oktoberfest.

“Joliet is good at having free events,” she said. “I would hope members of the community take advantage of it, even if they’ve only heard of it while passing through the park.”

Carmine did not turn down the idea of bringing back Oktoberfest next year, saying that decision will depend on community interest and sponsorships.

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