A group prepares for a barrel racing game at Oktoberfest in Sparks on Saturday, Oct. 10.  Photos by Samantha Johnson

A group prepares for a barrel racing game at Oktoberfest in Sparks on Saturday, Oct. 10. Photos by Samantha Johnson

By Samantha Johnson

When most people say the word “Oktoberfest,” the first thing that comes to mind is beer, and then maybe drunk people. On Saturday, Oct. 10, Victorian Square was transformed for the first ever Oktoberfest. Though it started small, it pushed for an experience beyond a day of partying.
From aerial stunts to traditional alpine music, Oktoberfest is a celebration of Germanic cultures, which includes not just German influences, but Dutch, Swedish and Austrian aspects. Volunteers dressed in traditional attire and a variety of vendors lined the streets. There were drinking games, such as a “jugging relay” where a team ran between tables to gulp down a beer. But there were family-friendly activities too, like face painting, trampolines and mechanical bull riding.

There was a tournament of beer pong as well as a barrel-racing contest, where people had to roll a barrel around a course mapped out on the ground. Volunteers also made sure that participants weren’t getting sick (or they would be disqualified from the games) and that people had rides home if they seemed unable to drive, whether through a shuttle or friends.

The history of Oktoberfest first started in Germany as a celebration of a royal marriage including a feast that lasted for three weeks. Although the tradition has become modernized in 2015, many of the same customs remain, like the German alpine music, dance, stunt shows, face painting and elaborate costumes.

Mercury Momentum, the company hosting Oktoberfest, was asked by the City of Sparks to bring the event back to the area, since there hadn’t been one since the Karl’s Silver Club closed in 2009. Mercury Momentum also made sure the event was sustainable with solar power and recycling bins. Anastacia Sullivan, who works for the company, explained that Oktoberfest is more than just beer, and is a way to educate people about Germanic culture. For the last six years Sparks has been without an Oktoberfest event. Sullivan said it’s an event for fun but also for bettering the community.

“If you’ve lived here for very long you take for granted the events that you have,” Sullivan said. “It’s really the community that comes out to make the event.”

The variety of vendors was one of the highlights of the event, since they aren’t hand-chosen. Vendors are given a general invitation and are not restricted to Germanic culture. There were crafters, artists, school programs, nonprofits, a rock wall, a small balloon booth, as well as beer vendors selling custom flavors.

“We have tried to create something for everyone,” Sullivan said. “It’s not just about drinking beer, but doing something fun and creative with it.”

Sullivan said one of her favorite parts of this year’s event were the aerialists and the alpine music group, Alpiners USA, which they had to seek out from California since there were no local bands that played authentic German music.

There was also a costume contest, although there weren’t very many people who dressed up besides volunteers. Sullivan was unsure of whether or not Mercury Momentum would be hosting the event next year.

“We need to see how it all goes, we need to let the people know it’s out there, because a lot of people were like, ‘I wish I had known about that!’” Sullivan said.

Samantha Johnson can be reached at samanthaj@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @SamRayJohnson.