Banbridge’s Oktoberfest will ‘offer a lot more than beer’

Oktoberfest organiser Neil Loy � Edward Byrne Photography INBL31-263EB
Oktoberfest organiser Neil Loy � Edward Byrne Photography INBL31-263EB

Banbridge’s first ever Oktoberfest is going to be about more than just beer, according to the event’s organiser, Neil Loy.

As well as the finest in food and drink there will be entertainment and even an educational aspect to the event, which is taking place from October 3-5.

Neil explained there will be plenty of fun for everyone over the weekend.

“On the Thursday and Friday daytime we expect to have our activities programme, which will range from group games such as yodelling competitions, other fun group activities such as German sing-alongs and a few surprise events and competitions taking place throughout,” he said.

“The crowd can expect to have an array of local talent, traditional Oompah bands and a visiting performance from one of BBC’s ‘The Voice’ contestants. More information will be released closer to the event as I don’t want to give too much away at the minute. Details and updates will be released via our Facebook and Twitter pages.

“During the Thursday and Friday before the marquee is open, myself and a few qualified staff will be taking primary school children from a cross-community section of the Banbridge area to introduce them to different aspects of German’s language, culture and food.

“This will be an insight that possibly many children haven’t had the chance to experience and will hopefully be a fun event, which we are very much looking forward to.”

The food available will be of a traditional German cuisine, with Bratwurst from an open charcoal swing grill, along with other authentic bites and nibbles, which can be washed down with the all-important authentic imported German beers such as Paulaner, flavoured German craft beers and many others. The 400-seater beer tent will be open from 5pm until late each evening for the public to eat, drink and be merry.

Having done quite a lot of travelling as a pharmacy student, with Germany being one of the destinations, Neil was fortunate enough to be able to soak up some of the atmosphere at the traditional beer festival in Munich - and it was from there that the idea for Oktoberfest came about.

He added, “I currently have the pleasure of working alongside Merry Monk Taverns Management Company, who are regulars to the main Munich event, leading to a strong knowledge of what works within a German beer festival.

“In the next year my primary aim is to attend the main beer tent in the centre of Munich in order to obtain even more ideas for our Banbridge event. It is worth noting that Oktoberfest in Munich attracts over 6 million visitors and is Germany’s biggest tourist event of the year. This festival has been translated successfully worldwide and I hope to emulate this success here in Banbridge.”

Hopes are high that Oktoberfest can become a regular event. “I believe that Oktoberfest Banbridge has real potential to be part of the annual social event calendar within the district.

“The support gained so far, pre-event, has been a pivotal driving force in its establishment, this alongside the community spirit that we know exists within our town should lead to a successful and sociable few days for all to enjoy! As for 2014, I think it is key to take one step at a time with regards to future plans, hopefully we can build on 2013’s event to make for an even better Oktoberfest the following year.”

Neil says he has been heartened by the backing he has received from the public and the council in putting the event together, which he is doing in conjunction with the Merry Monk Taverns Management Company.

“From day one I have had nothing but total support from the majority of the councillors, leading ultimately to the event obtaining an ‘in favour’ vote for Oktoberfest Banbridge, at the third and final council meeting. The councillors and council members involved have been more than helpful, and were available to contact whenever needed.

“Also, I should mention the staff at the town manager’s office who have been extremely helpful and have had to put up with so many calls and meetings.

“Everyone involved up to this point has been a pleasure to liaise with and I would like to personally thank them for all their support.

“I feel it is also important to thank the local people of Banbridge, not only those in close proximity to Solitude Park that I have had the pleasure to chat to, but also to those who have given positive feedback via the social media networks. These are the people who have made it clear to me that we, as a town, are seeking to be a continuously thriving community which is the envy of other provincial areas.”