The rain held off until the very end of this year’s Oktoberfest, and even then it didn’t deter much of the crowd that looked to be the biggest in the three years of the event.
“The crowd really hung in there,” said Effingham Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rick Lott. “We went through with no rain until the very end of the day (on Saturday). We ended up with a loyal crowd under the tents, waiting for the entertainment.”
The festival finale didn’t disappoint, as the Chuck Courtenay Band entertained the crowd long into the night. They were preceded on stage by the winner of this year’s battle of the bands, Lyn Avenue.
The strong finish was indicative of the entire festival, which saw steady crowds throughout Friday and Saturday. Although official attendance numbers aren’t yet available, Lott estimated a crowd of about 4,200 people, up from 3,500 last year.
The beneficiaries of the big crowd included the approximately 50 vendors selling food or arts and crafts. Lott said that several vendors told him sales were brisk this year.
“It’s one thing to get vendors to come out, but they’ll stop coming if they’re not selling,” Lott said. “All in all, I think we had bigger crowds this year. We saw steadier crowds. They kept the vendors busy all day, and everybody had a big time.”
Joining Lyn Avenue in the battle of the bands were fellow local acts Movers and Shakers, Bad Justice and Rock-A-Licious. Festival organizers selected those four finalists from nine bands that entered the competition.
“It was a tough choice for the judges — all the bands did a super job,” Lott said. “We’ll be able to say we knew them when.”
Another crowd favorite again this year was the best whiskers contest. Richard Cheely was named the winner, with Brian Eller in second place and Paul Roof in third.
One reason for the bigger crowd this year, Lott said, was Oktoberfest offered more for children than in years past. Madrac Farms created a pumpkin patch atmosphere with its hay play area, and Effingham Health System sponsored a kids’ zone, including a bounce house, inflatable slide, rock climbing wall and coloring mural. All the kids’ activities were offered free of charge for the first three hours of the festival on Friday.
“It did what we hoped it would, which was to bring a lot of families out early in the day,” Lott said. “There was just so much for kids to do.”
For photos from Oktoberfest, visit community.effinghamherald.net/gallery/