Since 1972, the Champaign County Historical Society has hosted Oktoberfest the first Sunday in October at the Historical Museum, 809 East Lawn Ave. in Urbana. Event organizer Dick Virts, entertainment/food vendor organizer Beth Adair and dozens of society members are preparing for this year’s event, to be held 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 4, with Oktoberfest themes in mind.
As usual, people can park in the parking lot of the adjacent Melvin Miller Park and enter the spacious grounds of the museum property where they will find more than 40 vendors selling their handmade items, at least seven food vendors, craft beer sold by the Historical Society and Oktoberfest music courtesy of local disc jockey Rich Ebert.
Vendor-crafted items to be browsed and purchased will include alpaca yarn, metal art from recycled materials, clothing, jewelry totes, furniture (chair caning), signs and candy.
“Charlotte Hupp created Oktoberfest with the stipulation that items had to be made by vendors,” said society Treasurer Ken Wright, adding that remains the rule.
For the hungry, so far there will be bratwursts, German potato salad, cabbage rolls, soft pretzels, catfish, french fries, walking tacos, chili, fruit smoothies, funnel cakes and candy to purchase.
For the thirsty, and of age, there will be craft beer sold by the Historical Society. “The craft beer concession will be run by the museum, so proceeds will go to the museum,” Wright said.
The museum will be open throughout the fest to allow visitors a close-up view of county history, including a revamped military history gallery and an exhibit of a few Urbana University items, including Alice Archer Sewell James’ paint palette.
Museum Director Cheryl Ogden said sorting continues of three truckloads of UU items that Franklin University transported to the museum.
Many people have asked whether this local tradition, like so many others, would be cancelled, said Virts, who is the museum curator and has been coordinating Oktoberfest since 1997. Happy the event is a go, he said he also hopes schools will be able to hold to the tradition of sending third graders on field trips to the museum to learn about their local history.
Noting Oktoberfest is the organization’s largest fundraiser after memberships, Wright said it was determined to hold the event in spite of COVID-19. “We never missed one in 46 years,” he said of the popular outdoor affair. He said that the event is held outside and later in the year are pluses. “There will be a temperature gun at each gate. Outside, masks are strongly encouraged, and social distancing … In the museum, we’ll require masks.”
“Unfortunately, we had to cancel the appraisal fair, so this will be the only public fundraiser this year,” Ogden said.
Besides taking temperatures, gatekeepers will collect the admission price of $3 per person. Children age 10 and younger may enter for free if accompanied by a paying adult.
There’s still time for craft and food vendors to submit applications, which can be found at champaigncountyhistoricalmuseum.org. Click on Events and follow directions. Vendors are asked to submit applications by Sept. 30, but event planners say later applications will be considered.
Kathy Fox can be reached at 937-652-1331, ext. 1773.