Oktoberfest Zinzinnati will have an even higher profile this month, says Cynthia Oxley, who directs the fest for the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber: Munich canceled its (mostly indoor) original due to COVID-19 concerns. After its own year off, Cincinnati’s (all outdoor) version returns to downtown September 16–19 with Thursday hours for the first time.
Are the expanded hours a one-time decision for 2021?
We’ve been thinking about this for a couple of years, based on requests from visitors and vendors. People know that Munich has a two-week-long Oktoberfest, but we’re using public streets versus Munich having dedicated festival grounds. We’re kicking off on Thursday evening now, and we’ll stay open an extra hour to midnight Thursday through Saturday.
How have vendors reacted to Oktoberfest coming back and to the new schedule?
We know restaurants have been struggling with staffing and food costs over the past year, but our longtime vendors are ecstatic to be back. Almost all of them signed up for the extra day. One of our beer distributors said they saw a 20 to 30 percent increase in sales at outdoor festivals this summer, so there definitely seems to be pent-up demand from the public.
What goes into the decision to have or not have Oktoberfest?
There are lots of moving pieces, but we’ve put this plan in place and will continuously monitor pandemic news. We’ll follow whatever safety measures the city and the state announce, so we’ll adjust as we go.
You used the Taste of Cincinnati event brand to support a $4 million grant program for area restaurants. What were your takeaways?
I’m so grateful to the restaurant community here for hanging in despite their pandemic hardships, and we were proud to support them. We estimate that the grants were able to help food and beverage businesses save about 3,000 jobs. We’re hoping to partner with the city of Cincinnati to do another grant round and include food trucks, walk-up windows, and Findlay Market vendors in addition to restaurants.