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updated: 9/9/2012 11:13 AM

Itasca's big weekend: Oktoberfest and NFL kickoff party

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  • Itasca Mayor Jeff Pruyn, right, will tap the first keg of the village's Oktoberfest around 5 p.m. Friday to open the two-day festival. Event organizer Dan Kompanowski, left, says he bought lederhosen to fit in with the enthusiastic German crowd.

       Itasca Mayor Jeff Pruyn, right, will tap the first keg of the village's Oktoberfest around 5 p.m. Friday to open the two-day festival. Event organizer Dan Kompanowski, left, says he bought lederhosen to fit in with the enthusiastic German crowd.
    SCOTT SANDERS | Staff Photographer, SEPTEMBER

  • Oktoberfest appeals to Itasca's German heritage and draws as up to 10,000 people, many of whom don traditional German clothing for the occasion. On Sunday, the lederhosen give way to football jerseys as Itasca hosts a RedZone NFL kickoff party.

       Oktoberfest appeals to Itasca's German heritage and draws as up to 10,000 people, many of whom don traditional German clothing for the occasion. On Sunday, the lederhosen give way to football jerseys as Itasca hosts a RedZone NFL kickoff party.
    SCOTT SANDERS | Staff Photographer, SEPTEMBER

 
 

In one packed weekend, Itasca combines bratwursts and lederhosen with hot dogs and football jerseys.

Perhaps the unifying thread through two distinct celebrations is beer. Plenty of it.

The fifth annual Oktoberfest runs Friday and Saturday, Sept. 7 and 8, in a massive tent downtown along Orchard Street. That means a mix of hearty German staples (knackwurst and sauerkraut, apple strudel and roast pig), brews (including Samuel Adams Octoberfest seasonal beer) and "oompah" music.

"Everything out there -- the meatballs, the cream sauce and the spaetzle -- is real authentic German," promises Dan Kompanowski, the event coordinator and a park district board member.

For entertainment, the Johnny Wagner Band headlines Friday and Saturday nights, while Jimmy's Bavarians will perform from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday.

Admission is free, but there are fees for food and drink.

Up to 10,000 people are expected for the occasion, modeled after the original festival in Munich.

Kompanowski says visitors should expect to see crowds donning authentic German attire in a community rich with German heritage.

"When I started organizing it, I enjoyed it the first year," Kompanowski said. "The second year, I had to go out and buy lederhosen and everything to blend in."

For the second consecutive year, Oktoberfest bookends with a salute to the start of the NFL season to make use of the rented tent on Orchard Street.

The Comcast NFL RedZone Kickoff features a tailgate-like atmosphere with more beer and big-screen televisions highlighting contests, including the Bears game at noon Sunday, Sept. 9. One screen will show action from the red zone, when teams move inside the 20 yard line.

And nothing goes better with some football than a chili cook-off. As many as 25 entries will have to impress judges -- typically local officials -- as well as attendees in a people's choice award. Guests can sample the chili for a $7 fee, then vote for their favorite, Kompanowski said.

"Everybody seems to have their favorite with their own secret ingredients," Kompanowski said of the entrants, who prepare hours in advance.

Both Oktoberfest and the RedZone Kickoff join a long list of well-attended events in the village, including the four-day Itasca Fest.

"I think whenever we do anything here in Itasca, we do it the right way, and the people in the area really support it," Kompanowski said.

For details, call (630) 773-0835 or visit Itasca.com.

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