When: 6 p.m. to midnight Fridays, 1 p.m. to midnight Saturdays and 1-7 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 27
In October, only one festival gives northeast Georgia the full German experience.
The Bavarian parade already has rolled through the town of Helen. Authentic German bands are playing in the Festhalle, and dancing, ranging from the waltz to the chicken dance, continues throughout the night. Food and beverages are served, creating festivities only found at the 43rd annual Oktoberfest.
Known as the most popular festival in the European-themed town, Oktoberfest is in full swing. It began Sept. 12 with the parade and opening festivities and will not stop or slow down until Oct. 27.
As it continues, the Helen Chamber of Commerce, who hosts the event at the Festhalle, and merchants throughout the city are grateful for the business the festival brings to small town. This year’s event lasts for six weeks, making it the world’s longest Oktoberfest. Each night features two live bands, food and, of course, drinks of choice.
One resident knows the benefit from the chamber and merchant point of view. Tim Bramlett, president of the chamber board and owner of Tim’s Wooden Toys in Helen, said no other event compares to Oktoberfest.
“It is definitely the No. 1 draw for tourists in the Helen area,” Bramlett said. “It’s a lot of fun. We go down there and we dance, and this year we have a really good selection of bands.”
He said although most businesses are glad to be a part of it, there is still an effort between the chamber and businesses to create maximum participation.
“The chamber is working hard to get all the merchants participating, so that they can all reap the best benefits possible out of the additional crowds,” he said.
As the proprietor of Tim’s Wooden Toys, he said the store does its best business thanks to loyal customers who attend Oktoberfest each year.
“As a businessman, it’s wonderful to have the influx of new customers,” he said. “We have traditional customers who come in all the time for Oktoberfest, and it’s good to have them come back and see you again.”
As thousands of people have come to enjoy Oktoberfest already, even more are expected in the next two weeks.
Usually a popular weekend destination, Helen normally remains calm throughout the week. The only exception is Oktoberfest, Bramlett said.
“It goes from a nice, quiet town to just almost chaos here,” he said. “But they’re all having a good time.”
What started out 43 years ago in a parking lot has evolved into the main fall event in northeast Georgia. For the first decade, as word spread, the small parking lot was used. After the festival outgrew the space, the chamber decided to move it to accommodate the growing event, Bramlett said.
“The town was looking for more reasons for more reasons for people to come up here, basically, and Oktoberfest just fell right into place,” he said. “So they just continued on with that tradition, and it’s just gotten bigger and bigger.”
Overall, Bramlett said Helen is a good place to have a business, especially during October.
“That was the main reason I chose Helen to operate my business was because of all the influx of people that always came through all the events throughout the year as well,” he said.
Hours to participate in Oktoberfest are 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays, 1 p.m. to midnight Saturdays and 1-7 p.m. Sundays.