Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge has decided to cancel its annual Oktoberfest celebration.
The event, which would have celebrated its 35th year this year, was scheduled for Oct. 16-18.
Ruttger’s owner and president Chris Ruttger said that there was no way to accomodate the large crowds normally associated with the event and maintain safety guidelines.
“We really held off as long as we thought we could, trying to find ways to do something rather than nothing,” Ruttger said last week. “The more we talked about it, better to hold off this year and have a bigger and better one next year.
“It ends up being about 1,000 people, and there was no way to cut it back,” he added.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, gatherings are limited to 250 people. Ruttger said that the event may have started by drawing a few hundred people, but now draws several times that.
“It’s a sad day, but we are confident that Oktoberfest will be bigger and better than ever when it returns in 2021,” he said.
The resort has hosted the traditional German festival – featuring live entertainment, authentic German food and drinks, an arts and crafts fair and more – since the 1980s.
Over the years, the celebration has grown into one of the biggest Oktoberfest celebrations in the state with thousands of attendees.
“We have German heritage, so it made sense to do a German party,” Ruttger said, about throwing the traditional party. “That first year, I remember, the number of people surprised us.”
Though Oktoberfest is cancelled, the resort will be open Oct. 15-18 and will host a Fall Family Fun Fest featuring hayrides, a farmer’s market, farm-to-fork meals, bonfires with s’mores and live music, sales, games and more.
Ruttger explained that the resort has done fairly well this summer, but “it’s been a year for everyone.”
“A lot of the summer, we’ve been busier than we thought we’d be,” Ruttger added, saying they are used to being able to predict the size of groups.
Oktoberfest being canceled, he added, puts a damper on the community, which often sees tourists maintain their homes in the area through the Oktoberfest celebration.
“It’s just a community event,” Ruttger said. “Everyone in the area plans around it. It kind of feels like we’re letting everyone down in a way.”