VANKLEEK HILL — Spirits were undampened at the 10th annual edition of Beau’s Oktoberfest after Friday evening’s fun was cut short by the severe thunderstorm system that prompted officials to order attendees into the hardened structures of the Vankleek Hill fairgrounds.
But the venue — muddied but thankfully unscathed after being drenched by the same system that otherwise inflicted major tornado damage in parts of Ottawa — bounced back with big crowds on sunny Saturday. Well-refreshed by Beau’s products, the revellers enjoyed such staples as the keg-tossing contests and live music ranging from Fred Penner to Saturday night’s lead act, Sloan.
Sloan performs at Beau’s Oktoberfest in the video below.
Friday’s guests were granted free admission on Saturday and are also set to receive a complimentary pass to the first day of festivities in 2019, says Jen Beauchesne, communications director for the local brewery.
Beauchesne concedes the storm has complicated the process of calculating attendance this year — as buses carrying some of Friday’s pre-paid guests never arrived while others wound up going both days. Still, she suggests the final count will be “in and around” the 20,000 number of recent years.
She also estimates this year’s event managed to raise about $75,000 for charity and community groups — in line with the recent average but down somewhat from last year’s record sum exceeding $100,000. As of 2017, Beau’s Oktoberfest has flowed over $619,000 to a variety of good causes. The fundraising element of the festival is its whole purpose for holding it each year, adds Beauchesne.
As for that soggy Friday night,it wasn’t an entire washout. While sheltering inside the wooden buildings at 6 p.m., guests still enjoyed beer and some “impromptu entertainment” while the storm blew through, according to Beauchesne. A couple of hours later, the regular entertainment resumed on the side stage — although technical reasons prevented the show from going ahead on the main stage.
She says organizers were in touch with Environment Canada through the day before making the call to move everyone inside. “We’ve had all kinds of weather at Oktoberfest. We’ve had colder weather, but this is our first tornado,” she observes. “Everybody was safe at the end of the day.”
Stephanie of Montreal tosses the keg 15 feet over the plank to retain her championship title at Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. Oktoberfest on Sat., Sept. 22. She was also given a chance at the end to reprise the feat as a demonstration (or possibly the bar was set at 16 feet) but couldn’t quite pull it off. Her successful 15-foot competition toss appears at 1:05 in the footage.