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Oaktoberfest builds community in the Dimond

The corner of Fruitvale Ave. and MacArthur Blvd. was home to numerous pubs run by German and Irish immigrants in the early 1900s. These breweries may have been shut down in the 1930s during the prohibition, but Oaktoberfest, Oakland’s version of the famous German festival Oktoberfest, is reviving beer-drinking culture – and uniting community – in the Dimond District.

A stilt-walker in modified, German garb. (Kate Ruprecht)
A stilt-walker in modified, German garb. (Kate Ruprecht)

This is the second year the city has hosted this free event. Like the traditional festival, beer and food are important components of Oaktoberfest. Still, the Oakland version focuses on revitalizing the district with community projects, vendors and arts that represent a variety of cultures.

The Revels, a national performance group with a chapter in Oakland, sang 19th Century Bavarian Christmas music at the event. Their goal is to educate audiences about various cultures’ holiday traditions through music, dance and drama. In addition to performing at venues like Oaktoberfest, they have a children’s chorus and outreach program. The program also partners with local non-profits who invite underserved members of the community to free shows.

“Oaktoberfest is a great local event, and way to see your neighbors,” said Sandy Gess, who sits on the Revel’s Board of Directors.

An accordian player on stage at Oaktoberfest. (Kate Ruprecht)
An accordian player on stage at Oaktoberfest. (Kate Ruprecht)

Other Revels affiliates also enjoy the community atmosphere the festival creates.

“My favorite part of Oaktoberfest is community coming together for singing, dancing and feasting,” said Revels singer Nancy Weston, who attended Mills in fall 1975.

Other organizations like Arts and Creative Expression, a non-profit bringing arts to underserved populations, provided hands-on projects for children. Kristi Holohan, the program director, helped children paint two canvases for Two Star Market on MacArthur Blvd.

Two teachers from Sequoia Elementary School, Amanda Lockwood and Debbie Koppman, hosted a similarly themed project that let children draw on the cement with chalk. Besides drawing, Lockwood and Koppman raised support for their plan to paint a mural on the Fruitvale-facing wall of Farmer Joe’s Marketplace with Sequoia School students.

“Students have learned about the history and different cultures of this neighborhood, from the Ohlone Tribe that once lived here to people here today. We want students to be able to paint what they have learned in a mural, so we are trying to raise additional support and funding,” said Lockwood.

The more traditional parts of Oaktoberfest featured beer tasting from 18 Bay Area breweries, German pastries like apple strudel and live accordion and alphorn music.