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Rotary clubs’ Oktoberfest returns to Carlsbad strawberry fields

CARLSBAD — October is coming fast and with it the return of a four-decades-old tradition with a bit of a twist.

The Carlsbad Hi-Noon Rotary Club and Rotary Club of Carlsbad will be hosting Oktoberfest from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 2 at the Carlsbad Strawberry Company. Additionally, the clubs will be also hosting their second annual Oktober-Feast by partnering with at least 10 restaurants for discounts, special offerings for meals and beverages.

Bill Baer and Vince Ponce, who are both organizing the events, said the new location gives the event more space and was easier to secure due to health guidelines regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ll have a deejay, play German music and dance,” Ponce said. “We’ll have a beer garden and offer a full German meal … in addition to everything else that’s offered at the park.”

In its 39th year, Oktoberfest was a staple at Holiday Park in Olde Carlsbad, but the strawberry fields come with built-in entertainment, such as bounce houses, the corn maze, apple cannons and other food vendors.

The cost to enter is $5 and $16 for a German meal, $9 for a sausage sandwich and $5 for hot dogs. There will also be a beer and wine garden.

“We partnered with about 10 local restaurants … and we promoted them for 31 days in the month of October,” Ponce said Ponce. “It was a COVID pivot. That’s where the Oktober-Feast idea came from.”

Baer said in March, the organizations were still unsure of the ability to host Oktoberfest due to the changing climate of COVID-19. Baer and Ponce began spitballing ideas before connecting with Jimmy Ukegawa, owner of Carlsbad Strawberry Company and the site of this year’s Oktoberfest, and they reached an agreement.

As for the decision to move forward with Oktoberfest, Ponce said plans began in February with eyes just for Oktober-Feast due to “so many uncertainties.” But things changed, especially after the vaccination rollout, and larger groups and events were allowed.

Ponce said it’s an opportunity to raise funds for both Rotary clubs to continue community service projects throughout the city.

“Part of the community kind of expects it and it was a little bit of let down,” Baer said about canceling last year. “However, we ended up netting about the same (revenue) as having the full event. We didn’t have as many expenses … and that helped us.”