SPRINGDALE -- Organizers of Northwest Arkansas' newest Oktoberfest readily admit money may not be the biggest result of the event.
Ozarktober Fest will be downtown Oct. 26-29. The event will feature a farm-to-table dinner on a train ride, a barn party and hayrides to historic Bluff Cemetery for tours, as well as Halloween activities and traditional Oktoberfest trappings such as brewed beverages and live music.
Ozarktober Fest schedule
• Ozark Meets Deutschland Farm-to-table dinner train excursion at the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad starting in downtown Springdale from 4:30 to 9 p.m. The event is sold out.
• Ozarktober Fest Barn Party and Halloween Hayrides Multiple options departing from Shiloh Museum starting at 5 p.m.
• Mary Shelly’s 1818 classic “Frankenstein” presented by the Northwest Arkansas Audio Theatre at Arts Center of the Ozarks at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $13.
• Springdale Halloween Fest from 4 to 7 p.m. Carnival games at Shiloh Square, Touch-a-Truck, pumpkin carving, costume parade and a free showing of Hotel Transylvania at Walter Turnbow Park.
• Ozarktober Fest Brews and Tunes from 1 to 6 p.m. at Magnolia Gardens. Cost of beer tasting tickets and a commemorative cup ranges between $10 and $25.
Other Oktoberfest events took place in Bentonville, Rogers and Fayetteville the first week of the month.
The Downtown Springdale Alliance formed and organized Ozarktober Fest. Kelly Hale Syer, alliance executive director, estimated costs for the event at $20,000 to 25,000, which doesn't include expenses invested by Springdale Parks and Recreation and the Springdale Police Department for the Halloween Fest activities. She anticipates festival proceeds will cover expenses and may have a profit. Any profit will go back into public programming by the alliance, she said.
Syer said the goal isn't to fill hotel rooms and restaurants, at least the first year.
"We're trying to woo people, whether that's to live in Springdale or, if they haven't had much connection to it, to know it's a dynamic place to be a part of," she said.
Some downtown business owners agreed publicity and simple recognition is an important first step before expecting much money to come in.
Mallary Sikes works at The Avenue, her family's fair trade shop on Emma, which opened two weeks ago. She realizes some nights of Ozarktober Fest will bring more foot traffic than others. The Brews and Tunes night, happening at Magnolia Gardens, is one-third of a mile from the store. Sikes won't hold her breath for business that night. But The Avenue staff plans to participate in the Halloween-themed night Oct. 28 by dressing up and handing out candy in hopes of attracting customers.
Katie Schneider of Trailside Coffee said the shop will host pumpkin carving for families on the Phat Tire patio Oct. 26. Schneider said the store will stay open longer that day, as well as the next, hoping the outdoor movie event will bring people in to purchase drinks.
The main benefit of the new event is having another tool to build the community, one city official said.
"Certainly economic impact is important, but so is gathering, meeting with friends and celebrating the Springdale of today and tomorrow," Alderwoman Kathy Jaycox said.
Jaycox wouldn't be surprised if Ozarktober Fest became a traditional event for the city. The city is known for the Rodeo of the Ozarks and Fourth of July events.
"If you don't try, you will never know," Jaycox said.
Syer said the alliance formed a unique event by starting with the idea of a farm-to-table dinner set on a train. The addition of an Oktoberfest element came later. Organizers shared an overwhelming feeling that spotlighting Ozark culture was more important than doing a traditional German beer and food festival. Ozarktober Fest does so by featuring area bluegrass performers and other Northwest Arkansas musicians, locally made beer, food made from regional ingredients and tours focusing on Springdale history.
"We wanted to highlight the farmers market and the farm-to-table movement we're starting to see in Northwest Arkansas," Syer said. "Springdale is right in the middle of the region. We wanted to own the concept of Ozark culture through live music, the talent of the region and to use venues downtown."
The farm-to-table dinner will feature a five-course German-themed meal prepared by Brightwater chefs Michael Kuefner and Vince Pianalto. Kuefner is a German chef who trained in Europe. Brightwater is the culinary arts program of Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville.
Such a nontraditional event is new for Brightwater, too, said Mark Holaway, Brightwater's purchasing and facilities manager. The program has worked to find all local ingredients and incorporate Ozark flavor into the German recipes.
"But this is definitely a first being on the train," Holaway said.
The train will present logistical challenges, he said. All food supplies, silverware and dishes have to be boarded beforehand since there are no stops. The kitchen is small, creating space restrictions. The chefs selected dinnerware designed to withstand sloshing. The bowls have higher lips, and they found glasses less likely to tip over.
The newness of Ozarktober Fest is an advantage to its organizers because it allows them to plan events more creatively, Syer said.
"Everyone's on board. There are no pre-conceived notions. We have goodwill from the public. We're just trying to do things that make people happy," she said.
NW News on 10/14/2017
Print Headline: Ozarktober Fest looks to find its spot