Raise those steins. Oktoberfest has arrived, and the people and plans are in place for a good time in St. Peter.
The 2019 Festmeister is Craig Tolzman, 65, a lifelong St. Peter resident, who does research and design work for Cambria in town. He will be joined by his co-worker and friend, Jeff “Dugan” Volk, who will serve as the Festshyster.
“I was poached by Harry Hunt. He just told me it was a fun opportunity and gave me some of the background, so I said, ‘Sure, why not?’” Tolzman explained. “I think it’ll be fun. To get people excited about what’s going on and the activities for the kids — it will be fun.”
This is the ninth iteration of Oktoberfest in St. Peter, taking place Thursday-Saturday. Patrick’s on Third owner John Mayer, one of the primary festival organizers, reflected on the beginnings of the event, which is put on each year by St. Peter Ambassadors.
“It happened after a couple years of Bluesfest in town. The Ambassadors noticed there was another need around Oktoberfest time,” Mayer said. “People kept leaving town to do something else. We said we can do it here; we just need someone to organize it. I had been going to La Crosse the last 15 years, and I said I could organize it and just model it after those (Oktoberfests).”
The Ambassadors puts on three events annually: Bluesfest, Oktoberfest and St. Patrick’s Day. Each year, the events help raise money for the St. Peter community. This year’s Oktoberfest will help raise money for lighting at the new pavilion in Minnesota Square Park.
“All the events that the Ambassadors do are designed to raise money,” Mayer said. “With the new pavilion, there are other projects that need to get done yet, and we want to help with those. I always tell people, ‘There are a lot of groups to help children, elderly adults in town, but who is there to work for the everyday citizens of St. Peter?’ And that’s the ambassadors.”
Oktoberfest takes place each year in the empty lot on the corner of Grace Street and Minnesota Avenue (Hwy. 169) in the downtown. This year’s festivities take place from 2-11 p.m. Friday and 1-11 p.m. Saturday. Five bands will play over the two days: Wedinger Band and Blue Ringers Friday; Concord Singers, Bachfest Boys and IV Play Saturday. There is also family-oriented activities, including the annual Kidtoberfest Parade at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Mayer noted that a variety of beers will be available for attendees to try this year. Hofbrau, an historic German beer company, will have a marzen and Oktoberfest. Also on hand will be the local U4IC Brewery’s Oktoberfest, Schell’s Oktoberfest and Sangria, Waconia Oktoberfest, Summit Oktoberfest, Bells Oktoberfest, Leinenkugel’s Oktoberfest, Sam Adams Oktoberfest, Miller Lite Oktoberfest, and more.
Aiding in the fun will be past festmeisters, making for nine total at the event, including Tolzman. “It was explained to me as I have the authority of a king but have no duties,” Tolzman said.
“It does sound pretty good.”
Besides his own enjoyment, Tolzman is excited to help, knowing Oktoberfest is good for the community in more ways than one.
“It’s about communicating with people in the community. Seeing friends,” he said. “And the money we do collect is for a good cause — helping the community with some of its development. It’s worth celebrating.”