From young to old, thousands came out in force this past weekend for the 26th annual Cape Coral Oktoberfest.
Hosted by the Cape Coral German American Social Club, Oktoberfest has become an annual tradition in Cape Coral.
Starting on Friday night, thousands poured through the gates of the social club and the crowds did not stop until the gates closed Sunday night.
The two-weekend festival started off with a bang this weekend, with club officials estimating 14,000 people going through the gates on Saturday night alone. The crowd became so big on Saturday night that it literally shut traffic down on west bound Pine Island Road from the German American Club all the way back to Nicholas Parkway, “It is amazing how many people showed up on Saturday. We could not have asked for a better turnout,” said Oktoberfest Chairman Paul Mills.
Those who braved the traffic found it worth it, as they socialized with old friends, new friends and family while enjoying German music, filling up on Schnitzel, Brats and Potato Pancakes, while washing it down with steins of beer.
The festival has been a main attraction in Cape Coral since 1985, “My grandparents had a winter home in Cape Coral when I was a kid. We would come down here from New Jersey every year since I was five years old and go to Oktoberfest,” says Angel, who now lives in Naples and is starting the Oktoberfest tradition with her own children.
Others attended Cape Coral's Oktoberfest for the first time, "We just bought a house in Cape Coral and heard about Oktoberfest from a friend. We are having a great time. We are looking forward to all of the other Cape Coral festivals we have heard about," says new Cape Coral resident Sandy Sheldone.
Whether they were first timers or Oktoberfest veterans, from the official tapping of the keg on Friday night by Cape Coral Mayor John Sullivan, to the last song played on Sunday night, the good times seemed never ending by all who attended this weekend's festival.
The club, who has hosted the event for the past 26 years, ran this weekend’s event like a well oiled machine. While thousands were enjoying the festivities, hundreds of volunteers worked around the clock, ensuring everything ran smoothly. From club members to local dignitaries, volunteers worked hours ensuring everyone was well fed, and the drinks were flowing, “I enjoy coming out here working with the German American Club and interacting with people. It is a great time,” said Cape Coral City Council Candidate Lenny Nesta, who is a second year volunteer for the event.
Nesta was not the only local high profile volunteer seen at Oktoberfest this weekend. Decked out in his famous lederhosen attire, current Cape Coral City Councilman Erick Kuehn spent Friday night herding people toward the Sausage Kitchen. Another Cape Coral City Council candidate, Dave Stokes spent Friday night pouring steins of beer to the ever thirsty crowd.
The club says this year is shaping up to be another successful event for the club, “It just seems to get bigger and bigger each year. Last year we had 35,000 people. This year we are hoping for 39,000. It was not that long ago that we had 29,000 for the event. It seems the minute you think this festival cannot get any bigger. It does,” said Mills.
The festivities resume next weekend, with gates opening Friday night at 4pm and going to 12pm. Saturday hours are 12pm to midnight. Sunday wraps up the festival from 12pm to 9pm.
If you are interested in attending this year’s Oktoberfest, the festival takes place at the Cape Coral German American Club, located at 2101 SW Pine Island Road in North Cape Coral. Tickets cost $6 at the gate. Admission is free for children under 12 years of age. For more information about Oktoberfest, visit www.capecoraloktoberfest.com.