PUYALLUP, Wash. - In the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Washington State Fair staff members said they are confident Oktoberfest Northwest will be a safe, enjoyable experience based on success from the State Fair.
"We did it without any outbreaks. We are so proud to be the single largest event who did that safely. So, that is commendable to everybody we work with—our part-time staff and quite honestly our guests. We have to thank our people who come and join us and help us follow the mandate, keeping these masks on, trying to keep their distance when possible," said Stacy Van Horne, public relations manager for Washington State Fair.
According to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, no COVID-19 cases were traced back to the Washington State Fair. Van Horne said their team anticipates Oktoberfest, another large event, will see the same healthy results. Just like the fair, they’ve partnered with the health department to offer a COVID-19 vaccine and testing booth at Oktoberfest.
"That’s important to us to partner with the health department to just keep people safe at all of our large events. Just to have different options for people," said Van Horne.
This year’s Oktoberfest is all about getting back to tradition. It’s the first time in two years people are gathering to celebrate the largest Oktoberfest in western Washington. The festival kicked off Friday afternoon with people already lining up for some authentic German food.
"We were excited when we saw the people coming here! We say, ‘Oh, look at this!’ Wonderful weather and people started a line to wait. And we even already sold two bratwurst," laughed Krystyna Tomascewska, of Bruno’s German & Polish Restaurant. "We have missed this and our guests. They come and greet us and want to show us, ‘Oh, I’m here Bruno!’ Our customers from the restaurant. This is all so very exciting."
"Oh my gosh! He loves all the German food, so definitely anything with sauerkraut on it is what he goes for," said Theresa Whinnemore, attending Oktoberfest Northwest for the first time with her family.
Though the spirit of the festival is the same, it looks and feels different from before due to the pandemic. Face coverings are required unless eating or drinking, and tables are spaced out. Staff are handing out free masks for those that need one.
"For us, it’s all about mental health too. People have been cooped up, they’re looking for things to do and we’re happy to be here to provide that," said Van Horne.
Officials with the health department said they recognize more and more large fall events are coming. They said it’s all the more reason for people to keep their mask on regardless of vaccination status, especially since the state allows up to 10,000 people for large indoor gatherings and no capacity limits at outdoor events.
"We do keep our masks on and we do a lot of sanitizing, especially for the kids. They’re always grabbing. We also try to keep our distance from people because they like to keep that space," said Whinnemore.
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