Sarah Van Buskirk
Beer, bratwurst and Bavarian music encapsulated the Fairplex in Pomona on Friday night for the opening day of Oktoberfest where dancing, beer drinking contests and communities came together.
“I think Oktoberfest is great especially for Pomona because the demographic isn’t here but it brings people together,” Shushan Zupic from Diamond Bar said. “But look at the outcome, this is amazing, I don’t feel like I’m in Pomona right now, it’s really cool.”
At the entrance, alongside the Garden Railroad, were 1960s Volkswagen Buses, Beetles and Karmann Ghias lined up to welcome Pomona’s car culture enthusiasts and to represent the German heritage guests were about to walk into.
In the quaint Bavarian town-themed expo hall, The Rhinelanders, a four piece German band out of Georgia, played traditional Polka music and taught the lederhosen-dressed crowd German drinking songs.
The band performed on accordion, horn and drums as they rallied the audience to the dance floor when they rendered the iconic Chicken Dance (Der Ententanz) song. Guests grabbed a partner to two-step to the classic and then came together for a large circle where they jigged until the song faded out.
Twelve men and women lined up in hopes to gain the title of “Fastest Chugger” or just to pound a free beer during the beer drinking competition.
The women took the stage first with large novelty mugs of Pumpkin Porter beer placed in front of them. The crowd supported as the bottoms were up. One contestant tapped out and raised her mug high, pouring her beer all over herself.
April Rojo from Baldwin Park won the competition.
Rojo said she came to Oktoberfest before the COVID-19 pandemic and lost in the beer drinking competition so she was back for redemption.
“I came with the mentality of participating and winning and I did,” Rojo said. “I invited a bunch of friends so it’s a time where we can all come out and just have fun and let loose at the opening day of Oktoberfest.”
The men’s competition followed as Izadro Carlin from Anaheim took the cake in four seconds, stunting other contestants from any chance they thought they had.
“I was just thinking about my cousin and how we always have beer chugging competitions,” Carlin said. “I went into a trance and the trick is you have to get air in there like fast, fast, fast.”
While in the sea of roughly 200 people, a cup-stacked tower formed as those with the single-use plastic cups donated to the challenge they do every year according to the guests who earlier stripped the expo hall of any empty cup left on the tables.
Nearly 100 cups stretched up as guests stood on the tables to get the final cup on top.
Behind the expo hall led to “Festplatz,” or the fairground, where a No Doubt tribute band kept the crowd alive.
Authentic German cuisine filled the plaza with aromas of savory sausages, smooth butter corn cups, crispy Bavarian pretzels and tangy German chocolate cheesecake.
Around the corner, bass ricocheted from the neighboring expo hall, Tanzhalle or dance hall, where a DJ and dancers hyped up roughly 100 people with club mixes simulating a techno club in Germany.
Merch carts scattered across the grounds sold t-shirts, viking helmets and Tyrolean hats.
“The city is growing so much, they have a lot of events even at the public library and Oktoberfest keeps the spirits up,” Alex Ambriz-Guzman from Pomona said. “The more spirit that is up the less you see of delinquency.”
Oktoberfest runs until Oct. 21 to 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information on ticket prices visit fairplex.com/oktoberfest.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.