The Cleveland Oktoberfest is held over two weekends at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds where visitors can enjoy Weiner Dog Races, Glockenspiel performances and giveaways, all sorts of entertainment, shopping, and plenty of ethnic food and cold beer.
September 1-4, 2023
September 8-9, 2023
Location: Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds
19201 E Bagley Rd
Middleburg Heights, 44130
The following post documents my experience on September 2, 2023.
I’ve also visited in 2010, which you can read at https://ohiofestivals.net/cleveland-labor-day-oktoberfest/
The Cleveland Oktoberfest takes place during two weekends (Labor Day Weekend and the following weekend) at the Cleveland Cuyahoga Fairgrounds.
Here, buildings are utilized for various purposes, including staged entertainment, Weiner Dog Races, a Bier Garten and multiple markets. Larger open spaces on the grounds are used to set up dining tents, usually with an entertainment stage, and Restaurant Row, which consists of a line of food trucks. Food vendors and gift vendors are also stationed along pathways and around the fairgrounds.
While there were occasional vendor booths outside around the fairgrounds…
…most shopping was found between the Craft Market, Art Market and Bavarian Village.
All three markets are near each other and it’s not unlikely for someone to enter one market and exit another, thanks to their proximity.
And, while each market name implies you would only find Crafts, Art and Bavarian gifts, these market titles don’t strictly restrict the merchandise sold here. In the Craft Market for example, visitors could food items that include hot sauce and cookies. The Bavarian Village, while selling those fun Oktoberfest hats styled after weiner dogs and chickens, also had Cleveland inspired T-Shirts, gothic jewelry, local art and Pokemon cards. I should also add that the Art Market had Lego figures in individual plastic bags which made for great birthday gifts for a boy turning 7.
In short, it would do you good to explore all three markets to see what’s available because the selection had a wide range as you’ll be able to see in the following pics.
Drink and Food
At a traditional Oktoberfest, beer is king…
…and there were many spots on the fairgrounds for one to obtain it.
But if you were a finicky beer drinker and didn’t approve of the brand being served outside…
…you could head to the Bier Garten…
…where a selection of breweries…
…were lined up for your choosing…
…to enjoy leisurely with all of your friends.
When you finally got hungry, you could head outside to food trucks stationed either around the grounds or in a long line, which was referred to as Restaurant Row.
Among the food options, one could find pizza (German style or Italian), BBQ and general festival foods. But most food options were pretty much Germanic, appealing to those festivals goers who loved a more traditional Oktoberfest.
Many of the Germanic food vendors offered a larger selection of items, so it was fairly easy to find multiple vendors offering combinations of pierogi, potato pancakes, bratwurst, pretzels, schnitzel, German potato salad and sauerkraut. This made it easy to get a selection of things all at one booth instead of standing in line after line to collect all the dishes for your Oktoberfest feast.
Since I wanted a schnitzel sandwich, I ended up going to Das Schnitzel Haus. While ordering there, I was also able to get two more of my favorites: German potato salad and sauerkraut balls.
But I stupidly took my food to this outdoor seating area under the sun, not realizing that the large tent nearby had plenty of seating and tables to eat food while enjoying the live music entertainment.
And, speaking of entertainment…
The Paulaner tent, the Oktoberfest’s main dining tent, not only had ample seating…
…but it also had some lively music entertainment (and dancing).
More music could be found in the Hacker-Pschorr Dining Tent and Bier Garten…
…while, in the Education Building…
…kids could enjoy some marionette performances (Frisch Marionette Company).
A huge attraction was the Glockenspiel, where people flocked at the top of every hour…
…for funny bits, dancing and freebee items thrown into the crowd.
(There’s even a second Glockenspiel on Labor Day Weekend.)
And while some kids would say that the bounce houses were their favorite things at the festival…
…it’s really hard to compete with Weiner Dog Races.
Each scheduled race was made up of a different class (puppies, adults, seniors), where dachshunds raced four at a time from the gate to the finish line, only a few yards away.
Each racing dog had a human to place them behind the gate with a second human on the other side of the finish line to call them (often trying silly and over-the-top techniques to get the attention of the canine).
At the start of each race, the dogs were given a practice run to help them understand what they were supposed to do.
But once the practice run was complete, things got serious and the weiner dogs had one shot to show the public that they were winners.
And they were all winners.