The Columbus Oktoberfest returns this weekend with a new entertainment stage, comedy acts and traditional food and entertainment.
The 48th annual event will celebrate German heritage Friday through Sunday, Sept. 27-29, at the Ohio Expo Center and State Fairgrounds, 717 E. 17th Ave. Hours are 5 p.m. to midnight Friday, noon to midnight Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Geoff Schmidt, owner of German Village-based Schmidt's Sausage Haus und Restaurant, which produces the event, said part of the fun has been adding to the traditions that have made the event a central Ohio favorite.
"And that's our goal down the road, to make it a bigger and better Oktoberfest," Schmidt said.
New this year is a glockenspiel stage, patterned after a cuckoo clock, where entertainers enter the stage from small doors on either side of the structure.
The stage was built by Dave Fox Design Build Remodelers on the Northwest Side. Bryce Jacob, vice president of Dave Fox, said the company spent about $10,000 on the project, including labor, material, and assembly of reusable panels.
In return, Schmidt's has agreed to promote the glockenspiel event and use the Dave Fox logo.
Negotiations over a Bahama Mama Reuben helped close the deal, Jacob said.
"We enjoy doing things within our community and have tremendous respect for the Schmidt's business," Jacob said.
"Like them, we have been a part of Columbus for a long time and we both felt that we had great business success stories to share. And who doesn't like Oktoberfest?"
Accordionist Dave Sabatka and the Toledo Bavarian Sports Club will perform throughout the weekend.
Admission to the Oktoberfest is free but parking is $8. Food and beverages will be sold by ticket only.
Several local restaurants and food purveyors will provide victuals for the event.
Schmidt's, for example, will supply its popular bratwurst, Bahama Mamas, frankfurters, fried bologna, potato salad, sauerkraut and cream puffs.
Mozart's will provide pierogies and weinerschnitzel, All About the Zel's will offer pork schnitzel, handmade pretzels and fried pickles, and the Hey Hey Bar & Grill will dish up sauerkraut balls and potato pancakes. Juergen's Bakery will contribute desserts and pastries.
Naturally, German beer will be a big part of the festival. Heidelberg Distributing will provide all imported beers, including Paulaner, Hoffbraus and Bittburger.
Also new this year, the Funny Bone comedy show will be held at 9 p.m. Saturday and feature local comedians Dan Swartwout, Keith Bender and Darrell Dawson.
Ladies and gents will have several opportunities to flex their muscles, appetites and pipes.
At the stone-throw competition, starting at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, men and women will have three chances to throw a stone the farthest. For men, the stone weighs 138 pounds and women, 75 pounds.
The cream-puff eating contest will be at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday.
Making its return after more than 10 years is the yodeling contest, to be held 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
The audience decides the winner. Wayne Owens, who's in charge of entertainment at Oktoberfest, said the last time the yodeling contest was held a dog won it.
The State Farm Kinderplatz area will have a variety of activities for children, including inflatable amusements, jugglers and live music.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium will bring animals Sunday afternoon. The Shazzbots will perform a rock 'n' roll variety show for kids from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
"We're always committed to making this a family event," Schmidt said. "We want to expand on this being a community event and a family event."