Columbus Oktoberfest officials are offering incentives for fans of Ohio State University football.

Those who are attending the Buckeyes home game against the University of Cincinnati at noon Saturday, Sept. 7, will get a commemorative mug upon showing their football ticket, said Geoff Schmidt, president of Schmidt's Sausage Haus und Restaurant, which is presenting Oktoberfest.

Those who use the Central Ohio Transit Authority park-and-ride and hop a shuttle to the game can return to enjoy the day's festivities, said Carla Epler, chief operating officer of the restaurant and director of the Oktoberfest.

"We're looking forward to welcoming both Buckeye and Bearcat fans to celebrate with us at Oktoberfest after the game," Epler said. "The 'Shoe is less than 2 miles from Oktoberfest, and we'll have all kinds of live entertainment, dancing, beverages and food to keep the party going long after the game. It's a win-win for both fan bases."

The 54th annual Oktoberfest will be held from 5 p.m. to midnight Friday, Sept. 6; noon to midnight Saturday, Sept. 7; and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8, at the Ohio Expo Center, 717 E. 17th Ave.

Admission is free, but parking is $10.

And those who attend Oktoberfest get free admission to The Columbus Dispatch Fall Home & Garden Show, which also will be held Sept. 6-8 at the Expo Center. Patrons must show a copy of their Oktoberfest program.

Oktoberfest will have many of the same attractions which patrons have become accustomed. There will be more than 100 arts, crafts and commercial vendors, a children's area, live music, games and imported and local craft beer. And, of course, traditional German fare will be available, including bratwurst, potato pancakes, schnitzel and cabbage and noodles, among other items.

"I look at it as bringing German heritage and German culture together," Schmidt said. "It's too important not to do it every year."

The ceremonial breaking of the pretzel has been moved to 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5, at Hofbrauhaus Columbus, 800 Goodale Blvd. It's the beginning of a special kickoff party, which includes a keg-tapping ceremony, food and live entertainment from 6 to 10 p.m. at the restaurant.

At 6:15 p.m. Sept. 6, the meiler vier (4 mile) walk/run, benefitting Charity Newsies, begins at the Expo Center.

The weekend is packed with festivities, Schmidt said. The stein-hoist contest is at 8 p.m. Sept. 7, yodeling contest is at 4 p.m. Sept. 8 and the cream-puff stuff is at 6 p.m. Sept. 8.

Epler said the spirit of Oktoberfest truly resonates with patrons.

"They come for the gemutlichkeit -- a feeling of fun, wellbeing, frivolity," Epler said. "And that's what Oktoberfest is. It's family; it's fun."

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary