Featuring music, crafts and food, Ocean Beach’s Oktoberfest is one of the biggest bargains of the year. There is a $3 cost to enter the beer-garden area, but other than that, the outdoor events are free. Oktoberfest is a joint venture between Hoy Hoy Boys, the Ocean Beach MainStreet Association and the Ocean Beach Community Foundation.
Funds raised go to help fund local nonprofit organizations. Since its inception in 2002, Oktoberfest has raised more than $150,000 for such groups.
One of the event’s biggest attractions is Ocean Beach’s seaside location. Ocean Beach MainStreet Association executive director Denny Knox points out that this fall celebration is the only Oktoberfest located on the beach. She added this is key to keeping admission prices low.
“We just want people to come and have fun,” Knox said. “Some things you go to are so expensive, and then you don’t have money to spend with the merchants in the area. We find that this way, business is brisk even at merchants in the area surrounding Oktoberfest.”
While adding a Friday-night component to Oktoberfest has been very successful, she said it is unlikely that it would ultimately stretch into a third day on Sundays.
“It’s very costly to stage these special events,” Knox said. “It’s all volunteers and a committee of about 12 people. Right now, we’re pretty happy with the Friday and Saturday setup.”
On Friday, Oct. 12, event goers will be entertained at a single stage at the foot of Newport, beginning at 4:30 p.m., and include a beer garden and finalists in a Band Slam competition to pick the best cover or tribute band in the area. On hand will be Myndecryme (Queensryche), Spiral Out (Tool), Rage Again (Rage Against The Machine), Dazed and Confused (Led Zeppelin), Hey Ho Lets Go (The Ramones) and Hitman Honey (1980s hits).
Then, on Oct. 13, there will be a full day of activities beginning at 10 a.m., along with two stages. The main stage will be hosted by inimitable local personality and crooner, Jose Sinatra, with performances from one of the area’s favorite tribute bands, Electric Waste Band (The Grateful Dead), and a selection of original music ranging from rock to reggae with artists like Mike Pinto, The Devastators, The B-Side Players, JetWest and Blackout Party.
At the same time, the Rey Vinole Oktoberfest Band will play on the Seaside Stage, located on Abbott Street. Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Oktoberfest visitors will find a plethora of additional activities, including a “Mr. and Ms. Oktoberfest” contest, a sausage toss with a $10,000 top prize, a brat trot beach run, as well as stein-holding contests and a bratwurst-eating competition.
Guests worried about parking are encouraged to take a shuttle that will run every half-hour between the event and the 710 Beach Club in Pacific Beach. There will also be a special bicycle parking area adjacent to the lifeguard tower on Abbott Street.
Members of Electric Waste Band are veterans of the event. According to keyboardist Paul Bell, it’s the location that particularly sets this Oktoberfest apart from the rest.
“I always enjoy playing outside at the pier, as you cannot ask for a better setting,” he said.
He said there are challenges to playing an outdoor gig like this, but the stage location actually mitigates some potential issues.
“The sound outdoors isn’t as ambient so,” said Bell. “As a vocalist, it creates the illusion that your voice is disappearing the instant you make a note, whereas indoors you get the reflection off the back wall giving you a little more of your own voice. At Oktoberfest, though, it is great because the stage points toward the cement wall and we can get a little vocal slapback.”
According to Bell, it’s likely the band will skip a planned-out set list.
“One year, I think we did compose a set that we adhered to about 70 percent,” he said. “More often than not, we want to feel out the vibe of what kind of day it is, how the crowd is reacting, etc.”
He said that generally means the crowd will be treated to a more hit-oriented show.
“We do seem to lean toward the sunnier side of the [Grateful] Dead universe,” said Bell. “‘Scarlet Begonias,’ ‘Here Comes Sunshine’ and ‘Sugar Magnolia’ are all favorites.”
Dazed and Confused frontman and Ocean Beach resident Jason Ott agrees that the hits are important at an outdoor event of this type.
“The sets are pretty short and there are so many good songs,” said Ott. “The hard part is trying to decide which songs not to play. We’re used to doing at least three hours, which gives us plenty of time to play all the crowd favorites and some obscure tunes, too. The thing we will take into consideration is: Is it a popular enough song that the majority of people listening will get into it?”
He cites “Kashmir,” “How Many More Times,” and “Whole Lotta Love” as crowd pleasers.
“At OB Pier parking lot events, we get to play on a much bigger stage and to a much bigger crowd than usual,” Ott said. “That’s a bonus more than a challenge. Over the last six years, we have played in OB, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Orange County, Solana Beach, downtown.
“OB is by far the most fun,” he said. “People here just love live music. I love being able to play in my backyard. We get to look the crowd and see so many friends all in one place. Good times!”
• OB Oktoberfest takes place Friday, Oct. 12 and Saturday, Oct. 13 at Newport Avenue and Abbot Street. All ages (21 and over in the beer-garden area). Free (except $3 cost for admission to the beer garden. www.oboktoberfest.com