The Munich Oktoberfest is billed as the world’s largest party—a raucous combination of the Super Bowl, World Cup, and a Taylor Swift concert tour.
The seasonal celebration is not just limited to Germany. Each year North America hosts 150 Oktoberfests, with Cleveland Oktoberfest hosting an event so massive that promoters had to spread out the fun over two weekends in September—this Friday, Sept. 1 through Monday, Sept. 4, and Friday, Sept. 8 through Saturday, Sept. 9.
The 120,000 visitors anticipated at Cleveland’s Oktoberfest can show their love, thanks to a USA Today readers’ choice poll that pits the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds shindig against 19 other festivals.
A banner ad on the Cleveland Oktoberfest site directs voters to the poll, which ends on Monday, Sept. 4, after the first weekend of local Oktoberfest activities. The excitement in Cleveland continues next weekend, with organizers pumped about the possibility of winning the vote.
2019 Oktoberfest“We were excited because we’d never been on the list before,” says Adam Roggenburk, president of event host Heritage Productions. “We’re one of the first cities to put on a big show each year at a national level. When we get into what the vote would mean, one of the answers is tourism. Getting crowned Number-one in the U.S. would really drive tourism in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.”
Cleveland’s Oktoberfest is against some stiff national competition, notes Roggenburk, who points to Cincinnati as a potential contender in the readers’ poll. Not to be outdone, Cleveland is adding a premium wine and spirits garden for 2023 to complement the 20-plus area restaurants and breweries expected on site.
The usual assortment of craft Oktoberfest beers—with Great Lakes Brewing Company as a major sponsor—will be joined by annual features such as live music, fireworks, an art market, the Miss Oktoberfest contest, Wiener dog races, and a mouth-watering bevy of authentic German and European foods. German pop group Dorfrocker will also return to the festival following a three-year pandemic hiatus, and Pink Floyd tribute band Wish You Were Here will perform on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 8:30 p.m.
A complete list of entertainment options can be found on the Cleveland Oktoberfest entertainment page.
190831_okt_d1_5585.JPGPlanning for 2023 essentially began after the last guest exited the fairgrounds in 2022, Roggenburk says. Organizers ship beer directly from Germany, while musical acts are usually booked a year in advance. Corralling 900 Wiener dogs for the titular race is its own logistical nightmare, one that Roggenburk nonetheless says he cherishes.
Love for the festival takes the energetic event host back to the importance of the USA Today vote. Heritage Productions is engaged in a full media blitz that includes help from bands posting the poll on social media.
Roggenburk says he is even happy when he meets someone who’s never attended a Cleveland Oktoberfest, because it gives the party more room to grow.
“People always ask why the event has gotten so big,” says Roggenburk. “Oktoberfest means a party for younger people, and for older folks it’s about heritage and culture. It’s for all ages in that it brings together kids, parents and grandparents. With each passing year, the excitement grows, and I am grateful to unite with community partners to bring the rich German culture the community has come to expect.”
Cleveland Oktoberfest runs Friday, Sept. 1 through Monday, Sept. 4, and Friday, Sept. 8, and Saturday, Sept. 9, at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds, 19201 East Bagley Road, Middleburg Heights, 44130. Ticket prices range from $16 for general admission to $95 for VIP admission. Prices are higher with the Wish You Were Here Pink Floyd Tribute concert. Monday, Sept. 4 is Labor Day, Military Monday at Oktoberfest: Free admission with military ID.