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PROST! Oktoberfest returns for fourth year

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The beer will be flowing for a good cause Friday and Saturday as Oktoberfest returns for its fourth year to Hill Wheatley Plaza.

Gates will be open from 6-10 p.m. Friday and noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday with German-inspired fare, contests and live music. Admission is $5; however, according to FACES Foundation executive director, Ernie Hinz, those clad in lederhosen and traditional German attire will get in free.

"Oktoberfest was one of the biggest events in Hot Springs 20 years ago and then it went through a hiatus where it just sort of fizzled out," Hinz said, adding he and Dick Antoine revived the festival four years ago as the primary fundraiser for the FACES Foundation.

"The FACES Foundation -- we do facial surgery for children and young adults that have facial deformities," Hinz said. "Most people think of a cleft palette or an overbite or an underbite, but it's often more severe than that."

Those in need of surgical procedures submit an application to the FACES Foundation and applicants begin paying it forward through volunteer hours with various nonprofits in the community to pay for their surgery.

"They don't have to do it themselves, necessarily," he said. "Neighbors, friends, classmates, church members can all do that on behalf of them, and then once that's done, we'll do the surgery."

Historically, he said, it starts at about 300 community service hours.

Hinz said because of the amount of orthodontic work that is often needed prior to surgery, it can take anywhere from a year to a year and a half after an application is accepted to complete the surgical procedure.

"Because we own the surgery center and Dr. (Daron) Praetzel doesn't charge for it, we can reduce the cost," he said. "If we did it in the hospital setting in their surgery center, with the doctors, some of these (cases) would run into six figures. Some of these are very severe changes that we have to make. It changes their lives."

There will be live music throughout the event and a beer garden with nine different breweries and distributors, all serving two to three different beers each, Hinz said.

"On Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., it's primarily focused on kids," he said. "Erin from Emergent Arts, Mid-America (Science) Museum and the Garland County Library really are the key catalysts behind that and there's no charge at that point. There's a $5 cover, but during that noon to 4 p.m., there's no charge. Then at 4 o'clock we'll start that $5 cover again. Anybody who's wearing Oktoberfest clothes -- lederhosen -- there's no charge for entry."

This year's Oktoberfest includes a collaboration with Spa City Blues and a 5B5K run on Friday which will start at the Hot Springs Transportation Depot and end at Hill Wheatley Plaza. On Saturday, Spa City Cycling will hold a Bike & Brew slow roll that will start at the shop at Park and Pullman avenues and end at Oktoberfest.

"We're trying to get as many people in the community involved as possible," Hinz said.

New this year is a beer stein holding contest at 6:30 p.m. Saturday where contestants, for $10, will hold a full beer stein for as long as they can. The winner will receive a ceramic beer stein, Hinz said.

All food will have a German twist to it, he said, with German chocolate funnel cakes, brats, German beer-battered corn dogs and other dishes all on the menu.

Also, included in this year's Oktoberfest events on Saturday are a dog show at 5:30 p.m., a live auction at 7 p.m., and a costume contest at 8:30 p.m.

Going into its fourth year, Hinz said Oktoberfest has nearly tripled in size with attendance going up about 1,000 per year.

"We wouldn't be surprised if we hit 4,000 or 5,000 people this year depending on the weather," he said. "We now have people reaching out to us when before we were kind of the beggars with the hat in hand."

Local on 10/11/2018

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