Projekt Bayern speaks out about this year’s Oktoberfest

Projekt Bayern board member and media manager Amy Gustin discussed Bayern’s plans for this year’s Oktoberfest. Gustin said that anytime the city administration asked Bayern to make any changes, they adapted to the requests, but were still left without options for hosting the event in Leavenworth by the city.

Adapting the festival to be held at downtown Front Street would not be a good idea, Gustin said, because due to the large crowd size there would not be enough room for emergency vehicles to get in. Gustin said that the way Oktoberfest has been run in the past was able to handle the crowds and that they adapted to solve whatever issues came up each year.

Gustin said she understands that some people would get too drunk in Leavenworth in the month of October but is not sure if the blame lies on Bayern.

“Sometimes you’re going to get people that come into the doors to Oktoberfest, who have already had pre funk someplace else…we aren’t judging, we don’t mind. But that being said, we have so much security inside our event. We were cutting off people left and right. And we would put a different color band on them so that everybody knew they could not be served more beer…If anybody saw them drinking, if they had that band on, they would be kicked out.”

Gustin said that Oktoberfest has had an open gate policy until ten p.m., and because of this people may have gotten overly intoxicated at outside venues. Someone could come in at noon, leave shortly thereafter, and then come back to the festival at 8 pm.

“Can you say that Oktoberfest got them drunk before they came in? I mean, who knows? ...It’s hard to say where all the consumption was happening,” she said. “Most people were being shuttled back to their hotels and that was all on Projekt Bayern at no charge.”

Gustin said that Bayern is not against the Oktoberfest being held in Leavenworth, but that festival will not have the same traditions.

“Projekt Bayern has always been about promoting Leavenworth,” she said. “So, you know what, if people stay in Leavenworth, they can do the Oktoberfest that they’re promoting there. But it is not going to be the traditional Oktoberfest that they are used to, from what I understand.”

When the contract for Bayern to rent out the parking lots for Oktoberfest was ended, Bayern submitted a request for proposal for an October event, along with others. Gustin said she does not understand why Bayern had to submit an RFP as the event was traditionally run by them.

Within hours, the City of Leavenworth rejected Bayern’s RFP, Gustin said.  City of Leavenworth Communications Analyst Christie Voos could not confirm how quickly Bayern’s RFP was rejected.  But Gustin said Bayern had already been meeting the goals in their past festivals that the city requested for future ones.

She said that Bayern was already paying their festival employees over minimum wage and that they incorporated local items into their festival.  While Bayern took up parking, they also provided enough shuttles, Gustin said.  Voos said Bayern’s RFP did not address the requested changes from the city and there was no conflict.

But Gustin feels like there was conflict between the City and Bayern and that the city was pushing Bayern out.

“We turned in the RFP. Within an hour of turning in the RFP, we had heard back from the mayor stating he was not accepting our proposal. So, I mean, I don’t know how else you would read that,” she said.

While Bayern feels they have had conflicts with the city, they are still going to provide funding for projects for Leavenworth and the surrounding area when funding requests are submitted, Gustin said. Bayern has already given back nearly $2 million to the community, she said.

Oktoberfest generates a lot of revenue, but it also costs over a million dollars each year to put on, Gustin said. But if 40,000 people come to Oktoberfest and spend $500 that is over twenty million dollars that go into Leavenworth and the surrounding areas, she said.

“No matter what, just having it helps. That was our thought process, no matter what,” she said.

Gustin said that she does not appreciate Oktoberfest being characterized as “drunk fest” by the mayor. While some people overindulge, she said, for the most part that is not the case. Oktoberfest didn’t take over the roadways, it allowed people to have fun and Bayern always followed the lead of city administration on aspects like the length of music, she said.

The mayor ran on a campaign of being against Oktoberfest, Gustin said, and was lobbying against the festival before being elected. Florea was not available to comment on this allegation, but Voos said he heard from community members that they were not happy with some of the effects of Oktoberfest.  While the city has no official record of Florea calling Oktoberfest "drunk fest”, he was quoted by a news outlet of using the term in 2021.

Voos confirmed that the city had asked for a more family friendly atmosphere at the festival. But Gustin said that Oktoberfest had always had a Kinder Platz downtown in the park. This year, the Town Toyota Center provides more space to have the Kinder Platz directly inside the Oktoberfest, she said.

Gustin said that the Oktoberfest is focusing on German beer and will not have any American beers because there are so many beer festivals out there and they want to focus on German tradition.  People from German beer companies have come to Bayern’s Oktoberfest in the past because the festival sold so much of their beer, she said.

“We actually had them up on stage for the keg tapping ceremony. It’s just so much fun. It’s a crowd pleaser. It gets everybody ready to go. And it’s, you know, I guess what a lot of people don’t know that if they haven’t been that there is so much comradery,” she said.

This year’s Oktoberfest will have expanded room for vendors, including those looking to fundraise, and free parking will be provided, Gustin said.  Shuttles will be provided for those both at Leavenworth and Wenatchee hotels.

Other fun highlights include the men and women’s stein holding contest, collectible memorabilia, and a Mug brand Root beer Float.  Tickets go on sale at the end of August. The Stein contest started a couple years ago, and you must sign up and five to eight men and women are selected, Gustin said.

“They come up and we fill a whole stein full of water … you have to extend your arm straight out and its not easy. You can’t use your other hand. You can only use the one hand that you choose at the very beginning,” she said. “I don’t think we have even gone over five minutes [for men or women].”

While it may seem like the parking that Oktoberfest has traditionally taken up may make more money, Gustin said that if you consider all the benefits that the festival brings to the community it is a net financial gain for the city.  Despite the benefits to the city that Bayern claims, the groups have split and there are two Oktoberfest.

Jessica Stoller, Marketing and PR Director for the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce wrote that the Oktoberfest in Leavenworth will still have music, dancing and the ceremonial tapping of the keg, as those are key elements of any Bavarian styled Oktoberfest.

For the Chamber’s Oktoberfest, two beer gardens will be located at the Festhalle and at Front Street Park next to the Gazebo, Stoller said.  The event will feature entertainment, dancing, food lots of great local and German beers, a large Kinder Platz for kids, a root beer garden and a 42-foot Ferris wheel.  

Similarly, Bayern’s Oktoberfest will have plenty of entertainment and dancing, with favorite bands and musicians performing the entire festival and carnival games for the kids.






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