Fall food and spirits
Octoberfest returns to downtown Ludington Friday and Saturday
Fall is officially here and a noticeable chill has already hit the air, but Octoberfest in downtown Ludington will keep residents warm this weekend.
Starting Friday evening and continuing through Saturday, the annual event is back with brews, chili, live music and more to bring a German spirit to the lakeshore.
The festivities include a pub crawl, activities and games, a craft beer and music festival, and the annual chili walk, among others.
“The mission behind these events — especially the pub crawl and chili walk — is to get people to explore all of downtown,” said organizer Jen Tooman, Downtown Ludington communications and marketing manager. “This is really a great way to take you into a bar or a restaurant that you’ve never been to before… and to really just take time to enjoy downtown.”
A popular downtown restaurant will be providing the German cuisine for the event.
“At the festival from 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, we’ll have German food available for purchase and Thai Mango will be taking care of that from right in Ludington Plaza,” Tooman said.
New to the event for 2018 is a co-sponsorship between Bell’s and Ludington Bay Brewing Co. for the beer tasting competition.
The event was handled by Bell’s in 2017 and Tooman said it was a massive hit.
“Last year the beer-tasting competitions were really popular,” she said. “Ludington Bay and Bell’s will alternate, and you will have to match up the beers they tell you about to the ones you’ve tasted.”
Despite the connotations of the name, Tooman said Octoberfest is a family-friendly event.
“We encourage families to attend,” she said. “It’s not by any means a beer festival. It’s a place to go and listen to music and have some craft beer and wine.”
The Octobterfest pub crawl kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday and runs until 9 p.m.
Twelve local bars, breweries and restaurants will participate in the four-hour crawl.
The entry fee for the pub crawl is $10, and participants will compete in games and other activities for chances to win gift certificates to downtown Ludington businesses.
Starting at Ludington Bay Brewing Co., the pub crawl also features Jamesport Brewery, The Alley, Ludington Pub, the SandBar, Blu Moon Bistro, P.M. Steamers, Luciano’s Ristorante, Barley & Rye, Sportsmans and The Mitten.
“The pub crawl games start at Ludington Bay this year,” Tooman said. “You play a game to put X-amount of stamps on your card. Play at Ludington Bay from 4 to 7 p.m. to get a head start.”
Participants will need to pick up a map from www.downtownludington.com/octoberfest or in Friday’s edition of the Ludington Daily News. Maps are also available at the Ludington Visitors Center at Robert Street and Ludington Avenue.
Participants can warm up with the free chili walk — a hallmark of past Octoberfest events and a major draw for memebrs of the community, according to Tooman.
“We still have the chili walk with 28 different stops,” she said. “So that’s about a half-gallon of chili if you can make it to all of them.”
Chili-fans who take part will be given a ballot, and if they stop at every location, they’ll have a chance to win a free gift card to downtown Ludington businesses by voting for the best in two categories: best food service and best retail.
The business on the chili walk with the most votes will get the trophy for the year. Timbers currently has the trophy, and will be defending its title. Will Krave Frozen Yogurt — winner of the trophy in 2016 — find itself back on top?
And kids activities
Octoberfest will feature live music in James Street Plaza from Aberdeen — a band from Nashville that has previously visited the area for Friday Night Live.
“They liked it and decided to come back,” Tooman said of Aberdeen.
Also performing will be the Marek Brothers Polka Band, a local favorite and veteran of the event.
Kids games will also be featured, with a bounce house new to the event for 2018.
All for downtown
Tooman emphasized that Octoberfest is a fundraising opportunity to funnel money back into the system to fund other activities in the downtown Ludington area.
“These events are put on by the Downtown Ludington Board, and we are a nonprofit,” she said. “All the proceeds that come in for these events get rolled into making downtown a great place.”
Among the efforts the funds from Octoberfest contributes to are hanging petunias in the area, replacing Downtown Development Authority (DDA) light bulbs with LED, “to be a little bit more environmentally friendly” and holding seminars for small downtown businesses to help them with marketing and brand growth, according to Tooman.
“A lot of the fundraiser too goes into being able to offer events for free like Friday Night Live and Live Music in the Plaza,” she added.
More projects are in the Downtown Ludington Board’s future, including repair, maintenance and landscaping.
“We have all kinds of projects on the docket,” Tooman said.