CINCINNATI — Oktoberfest Zinzinnati 2020 won’t bring the usual shoulder-to-shoulder crowds of thousands downtown next month, but the popular festival of German food, beer and music will go on – Chicken Dance and all.
Although restricted by COVID-19, organizers are planning what they hope will be a 10-day moneymaker with small groups celebrating in their homes as well as in bars and restaurants.
"There's really no way to do an outdoor mass gathering event, so we've come up with a new concept," said Lori Salzarulo of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber
But smaller doesn’t mean organizers aren’t thinking big.
"Oktoberfest Zinzinnati 2020 is taking it upon itself to assume the title of World’s Largest Oktoberfest,” said Cynthia Oxley, director of the event.
Normally, Munich's Oktoberfest is the largest in the world, but Munich's Lord Mayor Dieter Reiter canceled the event in April due to the pandemic.
Starting on Sept. 18, Tri-Staters will be able to celebrate Oktoberfest Zinzinnati "In Za Haus" by ordering Oktoberfest Zinzinnati Zelebration Packs from an online vendor. Those kits will include decorations, party favors and a list of official Oktoberfest restaurants to order food.
Some partiers who buy a celebration kit may get a taste of something called a polka pop-up.
"If there are a couple of houses that might be safely socially distancing in their own yards, we might have a small band drive by, literally get out of their car and play a few songs right there by their car - away from everyone - and then hop out and go play somewhere else," said Salzarulo.
Details for ordering party packs have not been released yet.
Besides carryout, organizers hope to deliver as much foot traffic to restaurants and bars as social distancing guidelines allow.
Oktoberfest is still recruiting business to participate, and it's not limited to places in and around downtown. That's good news to Jean-Francois Flechet, owner of Taste of Belgium at The Banks.
"A lot of people do not come to The Banks on a regular basis, so it's great in terms of creating awareness for us getting people to realize that we're here," Flechet said.
Usually Taste of Belgium and other restaurants and bars at The Banks get crowds wandering in, but the COVID-19 pandemic made that impossible.
"The one thing is there might actually be some wait if we see more people than usual because we are on a limited capacity because of COVID," Flechet said.
Still, organizers felt canceling would bring more pain to the already reeling service industry.
"I think people need some fun. They need a morale boost," Salzarulo said.
The Chicken Dance will be streamed on Zoom on Sept. 19.
FIND a list of events at the Oktoberfest Zinzinnati 2020 website.