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Chamber ready to tap into third Oktoberfest
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The third annual Oktoberfest is only a week away, and Effingham Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rick Lott can’t wait.

Oktoberfest will be held Sept. 28-29 at McCall Plaza, at the junction of McCall Road and Highway 21 near Rincon, and Lott said interest in the festival is rising.

"Facebook is already smoking for the last two or three weeks, and people are interested in various things," he said.

The beard and whiskers contest will be held Sept. 28 at 6:30 p.m., not long after the official opening ceremony. A beard and mustache group of Charleston, S.C., is expected to bring several entries, Lott said. The following morning has the best dressed pet contest.

The battle of the bands will be held the first night, beginning at 7 p.m. Judges went through nine entries and whittled the competition down to four earlier this week

"And it was really tough," Lott said.

Movers and Shakers will be the first band on the stage, followed by Lyn Avenue, Bad Justice and Rockalicious.

"There were some great, great bands," Lott said. "All of them had great sounds, and some very different sounds. There will be something for everybody. I’m really happy how that worked out."

Savannah’s Chuck Courtenay will be the headliner, and the highly-regarded country artist is expected to draw a crowd. Courtenay was scheduled to perform during the inaugural Oktoberfest, but electrical problems and a storm teamed to short-circuit his performance.

"We think he’s poised to make it big," Lott said.

There are changes in store for this year’s event. The stage, beer garden and seating all will be under the cover of tents. The beer garden was under cover last year, but not the audience area.

"So whether it’s really hot or raining, the audience can be comfortable," Lott said.

He also said the Oktoberfest committee has reached out to day care centers, private schools and home-schooled kids to come out between noon and 3 p.m. that first day and take part in the kids play area. There also will be coloring murals in the kids area, sponsored by Effingham Hospital.

"That way, they can come out and enjoy the kids’ activities for free," Lott said. "Normally, there’s a small charge for the bounce houses and the rock wall. I think that’s going to be a real hit. We’ll get people out earlier than they might normally come."

Also lined up are an array of arts and crafts vendors and food vendors, such as the Schnitzel Shack, Little Joe’s, boiled peanuts from the Shriners and Gilbert Miller’s kettle corn.

"We’ve got a little bit of everything," Lott said. "The food court will be great this year as well."

The Channelheimers Oompah band also will be back, entertaining from the stage throughout the festival. Parking is available at the ballfields just west of McCall Plaza on McCall Road and at the old Landscapers Depot lot adjacent to McCall Plaza. Boy Scouts will be assisting in parking at the ballfields for a donation and a free golf cart shuttle will be provided.

The ceremonial tapping of the keg will take place Sept. 28 at 6 p.m. to "raise a toast to the community," Lott said.

"It’s a free festival for the community," he added, "and we hope everyone will come out and enjoy it. It’s ready to rock and roll. We’re just waiting to get set up and get the audience out there for another big time."