It’s not the oldest, doesn’t claim to be the most authentic and is not the largest-drawing Oktoberfest in San Diego County, but Ocean Beach’s Oktoberfest is still unique – and, in 2022, going strong.
The area Oktoberfest celebration that may be geographically nearest to the ocean, the OB Oktoberfest turns 20 this year, and event organizers say that, as always, “it’s going to be the wildest Oktoberfest.”
OB Oktoberfest co-founder Scott Slaga, who owns Winston’s Beach Club in OB and 710 Beach Club in Pacific Beach, says the two-day festival set for Oct. 7 and Oct. 8 may be the only Oktoberfest held right next to the Pacific Ocean, at the end of Newport Avenue, near the OB Pier.
“There’s no place where you can go drink a German beer and eat a bratwurst right on the ocean,” Slaga said.
But that’s not the lone draw for the expected crowd of 10,000, Slaga said.
There will be a ton of live music, and while it won’t be the Oom-Pah-Pah band that visits El Cajon’s German-American Club every year, the OB festival will have a full lineup of local acts and nationally touring artists as well as a headlining band to be named in the coming weeks.
Slaga also said there will be something else he said no other Oktoberfest he knows of has – a liquid brunch featuring performers in drag.
“We do things our own way, things that make us different,” Slaga said.
There will also be a mix of traditional and some not-so-traditional events and Oktoberfest-themed contests and games – including a stein-holding contest, a cornhole tournament and a “liquid” lunch featuring a donut with a shot of alcohol.
There will also be a Mr. and Mrs. Oktoberfest competition — with contestants wearing swimsuits.
Slaga said in 2000, he traveled to Munich for Oktoberfest with his friend Michael Kinsman and had the time of his life participating in one of the largest, most well-known festivals in the world, where he said 200,000 people per day − in three separate shifts − take part in the revelry.
He said while traveling home, flying over Del Mar Fairgrounds, he told Kinsman that San Diego needed an Oktobefest at that location.
Slaga said the inaugural OB Oktoberfest was held in 2002 at Dusty Rhodes Park in Ocean Beach, and after three years, he moved it to Del Mar.
He said during the first go-around in OB, he and Kinsman tried to emulate what they saw in Germany, with football-sized beer tents, carnival rides and lots of beer. But he said they got too much grief from the city, and residents were unhappy with the event. He also said the move to Del Mar in 2005 didn’t pan out as he had hoped.
After taking a year off, Slaga brought Oktoberfest back to OB, landing at the current spot at the water’s edge, where the popular event has remained since.
To date, the event has given back more than $750,000 and supports several nonprofits who will reap the benefits of the event’s $10 admission price as well as some of the proceeds from the 25 vendors expected to have items for sale along the grassy area between Newport and the main lifeguard station in OB.
Over the years, the OB Oktoberfest has taken on a modern and contemporary twist, Slaga said, especially in terms of music, cocktails and the food that will be served — which will include some German fare but also local food as well as regional beer, wines and spirits.
Event Benefits Local Nonprofits
“While our event isn’t always traditional Bavarian offerings, it’s true to being San Diego’s wildest Oktoberfest,” Slaga said.
He said there will be two stages of live music and that “securing national music acts and making such a significant contribution to nonprofit partners that love OB the way I love OB.”
The nonprofits for 2022 are the Ocean Beach MainStreet Association − specifically its Friends of OB program − an organization dedicated to building a thriving business district that fulfills the needs of the neighboring community and visitors; The Peninsula Alliance, an organization dedicated to creating opportunities and championing change in the Point Loma and Ocean Beach communities; and the Warrior Foundation Freedom Station, a recovery transition center and housing facility that provides in-need men and women with the acclimation time, guidance and resources to successfully make the transition from military service to civilian life.