UPDATE: The Savannah Wiener Dog Races have been postponed due to expected inclement weather. Look for the rescheduled date in a future issue of Do Savannah.
Nothing welcomes the autumn season here in Savannah quite like donning lederhosen, stuffing oneself full of bratwurst and watching wiener dogs go nose-to-nose in a race to the finish line. Oh, and beer — lots and lots of beer.
IF YOU GO
What: 32nd annual Oktoberfest celebration
When: 4-10 p.m. Oct. 2; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 3; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 4
Where: Rousakis Plaza, 115 E. River St.
What: Savannah Wiener Dog Races
When: 10 a.m. Oct. 3
Where: Morrell Park, 430 E. River St.
Cost: Registration is $25; free to watch
It’s the latter that tips a feathered hat to the fatherland during the 32nd annual Oktoberfest celebration. The ceremony will commence with a traditional tapping of the keg at 4 p.m. Oct. 2, and the libations will flow throughout the weekend as River Street transforms into a German village, complete with the obligatory “biergarten.”
In addition to the traditional German beer on tap, local breweries will add a dash of Southern hospitality to an old tradition as they showcase their fall craft lineup and own Oktoberfest brews. A pretzel beer from Shock Top will also be introduced.
The fest is as authentic as it can be nearly 5,000 miles away from the Bavarian hubbub. And sure, Munich will always be the superior host of the annual celebration, but Savannahians know how to throw a party.
The Oktoberfest celebration intends to draw tens of thousands of festivalgoers this year, according to Carrie Bligh, executive director of the Savannah Waterfront Association, and is a close second to the revelry of the famed St. Patrick’s Day festival.
The free event, which is billed as a more family-friendly celebration, will offer a variety of food booths offering traditional cuisine, live entertainment and music, as well as regional art and craft exhibitors and various themed contests.
These contests will test the abilities of lucky participants as they vie for coveted accolades and bragging rights.
Oom-pah music is the inspiring anthem during the barrel races, an event in which participants roll kegs down the cobblestone street, the stein hoisting contest, which tests upper body strength, and the sausage-eating contest, a facile fest for the hungry.
On top of the aforementioned hoopla, the infamous Savannah Wiener Dog Races will take place the morning of Oct. 3 and remain a crowd favorite.
“There really is something for everyone,” Bligh said. “It’s Oktoberfest with a Savannah twist.”
For a detailed schedule of entertainment, go to www.riverstreetsavannah.com.
RUN, DOXIE, RUN
It’s unclear why the Savannah Wiener Dog Races became a known associate to the Savannah Oktoberfest celebration.
Perhaps it’s because dachshunds resemble the beloved bratwurst, or maybe because if Bavaria had a state dog, it would surely be a wiener.
Regardless, the competition of the protracted pups has been a crowd favorite for years and one of the most attended events at Oktoberfest.
Expect more than 100 dogs racing against their furry counterparts during 10 heats. The best of the best will advance to the final round and the top three times will be crowned victorious.
Another non-competitive heat will showcase mixed-breed dachshunds, aptly named “The Almost Weiner Run.” Registration is required to compete.
The races, sponsored by the Savannah Morning News, are kid-friendly and volunteers will be on hand to make sure pint-sized viewers get a front-row seat to the action.
The crowd can join in the fun following the races during the audience-judged costume contest.
Look for dogs in dirndls, owner/pet lookalikes and hilarious pet tricks. The costume contest is free to participate and everyone is welcome to watch the fun.