This weekend’s Oktoberfest Zinzinnati offers extended hours, promise for future festival growth

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CINCINNATI — When it comes to Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber wants people in the Queen City to start thinking big. Like, really big.

Like, bigger than the World’s Largest Chicken Dance big.

“We’re open to ideas,” said Brendan Cull, senior vice president and chief operating officer at the Chamber, which has produced Oktoberfest Zinzinnati since 1976. “We want people to tell us what they think.”

The Chamber has its own ideas about how to grow the festival, which is expected to attract more than a half-million people to Second and Third Streets between Elm and Walnut Streets starting Friday morning.

Last month, the organization announced this year’s Oktoberfest Zinzinnati

will kick off at 11 a.m. Friday

instead of its typical 5 p.m. start time. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley even declared Friday a half-day citywide holiday when the Chamber revealed the extended hours.

“We think there is a growing appetite for that as we continue to add to that and introduce new things for people,” Cull said. “People are so excited about Friday’s earlier hours.”

Oktoberfest Zinzinnati’s earlier start time in turn led the Chamber to schedule this year’s annual

Running of the Wieners

a day earlier. The race featuring dozens of dachshunds dressed in hot dog and traditional German costumes starts at 1 p.m. Thursday on Freedom Way at The Banks. Last year’s popular pup race took place at 11 a.m. Friday.

And about that chicken dance…

For the first time since Oktoberfest Zinzinnati set the record for holding “The World’s Largest Chicken Dance” in 1994, several local media celebrities will lead the dance from nine festival stages. For the past 25 years, the Chamber imbued a single grand marshal or group with the honor of leading thousands of Oktoberfest attendees as they collectively shook their tail feathers at the festival’s main stage.

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This year’s Chicken Dance

is set to start at 5 p.m. Saturday.

This weekend won’t be the first time the Chamber has introduced significant changes to the event.

The Chamber first added Friday evening hours in 2013. And before the Cincinnati streetcar began operations in 2016, the Chamber announced it was moving Oktoberfest from Fifth Street Downtown to its current location in order to avoid disrupting the streetcar’s schedule.

But the core of the event has been the same for 43 years: Beer, sausages, polka music and lederhosen.

“Oktoberfest is one of these unique Cincinnati traditions,” Cull said. “It is a weekend to be treasured in Cincinnati. We’re proud of our community heritage.”

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