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posted: 9/2/2014 3:48 PM

Villa Park's Oktoberfest features music, talent competition and an alligator

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  • Carnival rides once again will play a big role in Villa Park's annual Oktoberfest celebration that opens Friday and continues through Sunday in Lions Park.

      Carnival rides once again will play a big role in Villa Park's annual Oktoberfest celebration that opens Friday and continues through Sunday in Lions Park.
    Daily Herald file photo

  • Billy Croft and the 5 Alarm will perform this weekend as part of Villa Park's Oktoberfest.

      Billy Croft and the 5 Alarm will perform this weekend as part of Villa Park's Oktoberfest.
    Daily Herald file photo

  • Admit it, no Oktoberfest celebration could possibly be complete without an appearance by a giant alligator.

      Admit it, no Oktoberfest celebration could possibly be complete without an appearance by a giant alligator.
    Daily Herald file photo

 
 

If you've spent any time in DuPage County, you know there's a problem with Oktoberfest celebrations held in October.

Sometimes it's cold. Often it's wet. Nobody wants to hide their lederhosen under a parka -- in some parts that's known as lederfrozen.

Which explains why the organizers of Villa Park's annual Oktoberfest, now in its 35th year, decided some time ago to ignore the calendar and move their party up to early September. If you can't beat Mother Nature, they reasoned, maybe you can confuse her.

So despite the name, Villa Park residents will gather to celebrate fall -- minus, they hope, the chilly fall-like temperatures -- from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5; noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 7, at Lions Park, 320 W. Wildwood Ave. For full details, visit vprd.org.

Folks from the Villa Park Recreation Department who oversee the festival say it's an ideal family event with bands that will include 7th heaven, and Billy Croft and the 5 Alarm; a local talent show; carnival rides; and a big ol' alligator named Bubba.

Ah, Bubba. Supplied by a company called Cold Blooded Creatures, he's the guy everybody seems to talk about.

You can look at him. If you're lucky, you can touch him. You can marvel at his size and try to calculate how many brats -- the sausages, not the kids -- he could munch on during a single sitting if, of course, alligators could sit.

"The kids just love it," says media liaison Janet Vargas, one of those helping organize the event.

Heather Carlson, a program supervisor in the rec department, admits she is pretty stoked about checking out Bubba, although it's a pretty good bet she'll be keeping a safe distance.

As alluring as Bubba might be, Carlson is more concerned with her own part of the festival, which is helping oversee the Villa Park's Got Talent competition that starts at noon Saturday and continues until all the contestants have performed.

This year's competition is divided into two categories: one for contestants 15 and younger and the other for those 16 and older.

A week before the fest, Carlson said the youngest competitor to register was around 9 and the oldest was in their 40s. Most of the performers are singers, she says, although there's a dancer in there, too. Fans of accordion-playing jugglers may have to wait until next year.

This is the fifth year for the competition, and Carlson says she's "looking forward to hearing the different vocal styles."

The competitors tend to take the contest seriously.

"They're there to have fun," she says, "but they're also there to win."

The winners from each category will get to perform again at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

Carlson says another highlight of this year's Oktoberfest will be the children's tent, open noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

A "walk-around magician" and a balloon artist will be working in the tent Saturday and a face painter will be there Sunday.

Vargas, meanwhile, says she's pretty excited about the teen pizza judging on Saturday.

But her favorite part of the party, she says, is the "overall good feeling" it provides.

"I enjoy seeing the whole community come out to our event," she says.

And that includes Bubba.

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