Five participants lined up at the start line, eager to start the race. Their legs were ready, their tongues out and eyes on the finish line. Onlookers lined the course with their cell phones out ready to record the race. And then they were off, five little weiner dogs running to their owners.
Weiner dog races were just one of the many activities that took place during the tenth annual Cotati Oktoberfest. Hosted by the Cotati Chamber of Commerce in La Plaza Park, festival attendees were privy to an authentic Oktoberfest.
“It’s action packed from the minute we start to the minute we close,” said Rick Minervini, the administrative coordinator for the Cotati Chamber of Commerce.
The six hour festival featured a yodeling contest, German potato sack races, a 50/50 raffle, a tankard hoisting contest- a contest in which participants hold a stein filled with water at arms length and whoever can hold it the longest is declared winner, and of course, the weiner dog races.
Authentic German music was performed by “The Continentals.” A performance was also given by the Sonoma State University German Club singers.
Festival goers, some donning traditional lederhosen, sipped beer provided by Lagunitas and danced to live music. Attendees posed for photos proudly showing their steins and bratwursts. Others found shade from the heat underneath a large tent.
People brought their pets and their children, who ran around the square. Booths lined the premises of the Plaza, selling jewelry, beer and other homemade gifts.
“It was really cool to see that everyone was there for beer and fun,” said Linnea Rimal, a festival attendee. “The atmosphere was really lively and fun. People brought their kids and dogs. The sense of community was almost overwhelming.”
Proceeds from the event go back to the Chamber of Commerce to help fund future Cotati events, such as the Jazz Festival and Kids Day Parade which take place in the summer, and the Three Nights of Fun Festival, a three day holiday event taking place in the beginning of December, featuring carollers, tree lighting and shopping.
Reggie Slater, owner of the “Hot Spot” restaurant in Cotati, manned a booth selling authentic German beer. His selection included Weltenburger Kloster, a beer that has been made since the year 1050.
“I’m here because I love it,” Slater said. “German beers are good, pure beers good for eating with. They enhance the experience, not overwhelm it.”
Also participating in the festival was Sonoma State’s German Club, who volunteered at the pretzel and root beer booth and gave a performance later in the afternoon.
“It is cool to have seen it grow from something small to something kind of big and hard to miss,” said Wylie Winheim, a junior German Cultural Studies major and member of the university German Club.
The German Club has been volunteering at Oktoberfest for three years. Winheim says the festival is a great place for people to find out about the German Club. The club features six officers as well as members of the German Studies program at Sonoma State.
Another club member, Kaslin Ettema, a senior communications major and German minor, just got back from Germany, where she attended similar festivals.
“I love this event because I was just abroad in Germany, so it makes me feel like I am back in Germany,” Ettema said. “It does a good job at bringing music, people, and food.”
Rimal, who attended the event for the first time this year, definitely sees herself attending the event again. “I would absolutely go again. The atmosphere was the main draw. It was fun to see so many locals that love beer and want to have a good time,” she said. “The weiner dog race and the yodeling were entertaining too.”