ELKHART — The sight of flying footballs, the sound of tractor engines and the smell of chili filled the air at Elkhart’s Central Park Saturday afternoon during the fourth annual Oktoberfest.
The orange pumpkins and trees made a contrast with the gray, gloomy sky, but that did not stop families from coming out downtown to celebrate the fall and help for a cause.
Tom Ternet invited his neighbors and they both brought their granddaughters to the festival for a while.
“They provided a lot of activities for the event,” he said. “Of course, it would be nicer if it was warmer but we’re having a great time. You always see people you hadn’t seen in a long time.”
Oktoberfest, hosted by Pillars of Elkhart and the City of Elkhart Parks and Recreation Department, was a success this year, said Stephanie Patka, executive director of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Elkhart.
“We’re thrilled with the outcome for this event. We live in Indiana, so the weather can’t always be perfect,” she said. “But the weather was not a deterrent for people to come.”
Proceeds from the festival go to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Elkhart.
The festival had something for everyone in the family: There were tents with face-painting and snacks, bouncy houses and hayrides. Several bands performed at the stage next to a “beer garden,” and local businesses had tents with food, crafts and gourds.
A chili contest took place at the tent on the west side of the park, where McCarthy’s chili won first place on the people’s choice category, and Mod Mex won first on the judge’s category (for more details on the chili cook-off, see Marshall King’s column Dining A La King on Monday’s Elkhart Truth edition.)
A new part of Oktoberfest this year, the fall flower carpet decorations along the Riverwalk were on display one last day. Those who had already purchased tickets at the Lerner Theatre and anyone else interested in purchasing mums at the festival picked their pots of choice from 4 to 7 p.m.
The fall flower carpet was produced by the Elkhart County Convention and the Visitor’s Bureau. Proceeds from the flower sale go to the Big Brothers and Big Sister of Elkhart as well.
Patka said several thousand mums had been purchased ahead of time, and many others stopped to buy some while at the festival.
“It’s indicative of the support our agency and Pillars of Elkhart receives from the community,” she said.