CINCINNATI — Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, Cincinnati's annual celebration of all things German, returns Downtown this Friday through Sunday.
The festival, which drew 675,000 people last year, will again take place on Second and Third streets between Walnut and Elm.
The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, the organization that produces the German fest each year, has added a few new elements to keep the 43rd annual event fresh. Perhaps the biggest new addition is Oktoberfest Zinzinnati's extended Friday hours. You can learn more about that and other changes below.
Oktoberfest Zinzinnati's hours this year are 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.
WHAT'S NEW THIS YEAR (A LOT)
Expanded hours: This year’s Oktoberfest Zinzinnati will kick off at 11 a.m. Friday. That’s six more hours of Oktoberfest to enjoy compared to last year, when the festival began at 5 p.m. Friday. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley even declared Friday a half-day citywide holiday to celebrate the occasion.
New times for some events: Due to the expanded Friday hours, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber scheduled this year's Running of the Wieners a day earlier than normal. (The new hours didn’t seem to affect the number of pups who participated or general enthusiasm for the event.)
The World's Largest Chicken Dance also has an earlier start time: 5 p.m. Saturday. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden director Thane Maynard led the dance at noon Sunday last year.
And finally, Oktoberfest Zinzinnati's opening ceremonies will take place at noon Friday instead of last year's time at noon Saturday.
More room to dance: This weekend, at least a dozen local media personalities will lead the World’s Largest Chicken Dance from nine different stages. That’s eight more stages than in past years, when Oktoberfest Zinzinnati’s honorary grand marshal(s) would lead the crowd in the rousing dance set to polka music from just the festival’s main stage.
The Uberdrome returns: The Moerlein Lager House’s tented Überdrome, conspicuously absent during last year’s festivities, will return to the lawn adjacent to the restaurant at The Banks.
New traffic patterns: There are two significant traffic changes related to Oktoberfest Zinzinnati this year.
1. The following streets will close at 6 p.m. Thursday due to the festival’s earlier Friday start time. (Cincinnati police didn’t close these streets until 9 a.m. Friday last year.) They'll remain closed until 5 a.m. Monday, the same as last year.
- Second Street: Closed between Elm Street and Walnut Street
- Third Street: Closed between Walnut Street and Elm Street
- Vine Street/ Rosa Parks Street: Closed between Fourth Street and Freedom Way (Local parking access maintained between Fourth Street and Third Street and between Freedom Way and Second Street)
- Race Street: Closed between Fourth Street and Freedom Way (Local parking access maintained between Fourth Street and Third Street and between Freedom Way and Second Street)
- Freedom Way: Closed between Marian Spencer Way and Rosa Parks Street
2. Although Second and Third streets, along with portions of most of the intersecting streets between Elm and Walnut streets, will once again be closed, the portion of Second Street that makes up the northbound and southbound exit ramps from Interstate 75 on the Brent Spence Bridge will remain open the entire weekend. So will the Second Street ramps from the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge.
The two outside north and south lanes of Second Street from both bridges will be open to constant flowing traffic to Elm Street. This also will allow Elm Street to operate as it usually does — with traffic running north from Second toward Third Street and into Downtown and south toward Freedom Way and Mehring Way.
Make sense? Maybe the Google Map below will help visualize the portion of Second Street that will now be open:
Of course, a good option to avoid traffic altogether is to park away from the event and ride either Cincinnati's Metro buses, TANK buses or the Cincinnati streetcar to Oktoberfest.
OKTOBERFEST ZINZINNATI FAVORITES
The "World's Largest Chicken Dance": It is still happening. You’ll just have more space to shake your tail feathers.
Running of the Wieners: Maple, a 1-year-old dachshund with a gorgeous chestnut coat, snagged the top prize at this year's race. Honestly, though? The real winners are the audience members who get to watch tiny dogs scamper around in hot dog costumes.
Oktoberfest Zinzinnati opening ceremonies: Sam Adams founder Jim Koch will tap a keg at noon Friday to kick off the weekend’s festivities on the Sam Adams main stage at Second and Elm streets. Because this is happening on Friday this year, you might want to make sure your boss doesn’t mind if you drink a beer during your lunch break.
The Gemuetlichkeit Games: These goodwill games that pit media personalities against one another in fun competitions start an hour earlier this year and at a new location. The games will begin at 11 a.m. Friday in front of the Sam Adams main stage.
The World Brat Eating Championship: This is the one event missing from this year’s Oktoberfest Zinzinnati. Of course, no one said you can’t hold your own bratwurst-eating competition with your friends.
Live entertainment: Bands will play on nine stages located across Second and Third streets. Tap on the icons in the map below for stage locations and showtimes or check out the entertainment tab at www.oktoberfestzinzinnati.com.
THE FOOD AND DRINKS
Oktoberfest Zinzinnati wouldn't be the same without eating at least a beer and a brat -- and we mean least. There will be more than 100 varieties of beer and 200 food items for sale among the vendors, festival tents and beer gardens at Oktoberfest.
You can check out the full list of food, beer and vendor offerings and locations here.