How to mix beer, music and art and get away with it

The Dayton Art Institute delivers Oktoberfest

By Kevin J. Gray

Under new directorship, The Dayton Art Institute has exciting changes underway, changes that you can preview at this year’s Oktoberfest celebration. The annual fundraiser, marking its 41st year, offers something for everyone.

“[Oktoberfest] is not all about the beer,” according to co-chair John Nairus. “Friday’s preview party is a who’s who. It’s kid friendly during the day. It is a party Saturday night and Sunday is a very nice day, with jazz bands and a Sunday kind of atmosphere. There’s something all weekend.”

The Preview Party

Friday night’s preview party is one of the premier who’s who events in Dayton. Open to the public (not just DAI members), the preview party allows guests to get a sneak peek of the festivities, plus some Friday-night-only special events. The party starts at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 21, and runs until 11 p.m. Premier Health Partners sponsors the opening night event, where attendees receive complimentary draft beer, wine and soft drinks or can purchase international beer and premium wine at the cash bar. Friday’s event features more than 65 artisan exhibitors and 30 food vendors, with Cincinnati favorites Soul Pocket providing the soundtrack to the evening. Additional highlights include a pumpkin carving by Arctic Diamond Ice Sculpture (pumpkins to be auctioned off at the end of the evening), a bourbon tasting (there is an additional charge for the tasting), and access to the museum’s galleries and the special exhibition “You Are My Superhero” (the galleries and exhibit are open from 7 – 10 p.m.).

The event will fill up, so veteran preview party attendees recommend purchasing tickets to the Friday event early. Advance tickets are $45 for museum members and $60 for non-members. All Preview Party tickets purchased at the gate are $80. Purchase advance tickets online at, at the museum’s visitor services desk, or by calling (937) 223-5277 during regular museum hours.

The Main Event

Oktoberfest proper kicks off at noon on both Saturday, Sept. 22 and Sunday, Sept. 23. The event, which is virtually weather-proof due to the extensive tent system, offers family-friendly entertainment during the afternoon hours on Saturday and all day Sunday, and Dayton’s largest party on Saturday night.

There is a lot to do at Oktoberfest. First and foremost, check out the wildly popular “You Are My Superhero” special exhibit. It’s the last weekend of the show, so if you miss it at Oktoberfest, it’s gone forever, no matter how many bat-shaped spotlights you aim at the sky. Discounted admission to the special exhibit will be offered during Oktoberfest weekend, and will be $5 for non-museum members and free for museum members and children 6 and under. The regular collection galleries, which are always free of charge (but welcome donations), are also open from noon – 6 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday and Sunday afternoon, bring the kids to see the Superhero exhibit, then stay for the ACCO Brands FamilyFest. This portion of the event provides free art activities for the kids, from noon – 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. And check out the wandering puppets from the Zoot Theatre Company, one of the DAI’s newest and most exciting partnerships.

Or, send the kids home with a sitter and check out the beer and wine selections that have made Oktoberfest famous. This year features a stellar list of both, with an exhaustive list of domestic, international, and craft beers and an impressive wine list (see sidebar for complete listing). Learn more about beer and wine during the tastings and seminars throughout Saturday and Sunday in the Weingarten. Beer geeks, don’t miss the cask ale tappings at 1 pm on Saturday. This year’s event features three casks (see sidebar), two of which are available in the non-cask version in the craft tent. Compare the cask and draft version to see which you prefer.

Speaking of beer, toast the winners of the fourth annual DAI Oktoberfest homebrew competition on Saturday afternoon. Judging took place on Sept. 8, but the ballots have been sealed Jeff Probst-style until they are unveiled at Saturday’s Oktoberfest event. This year will see an expanded set of awards for the locally-brewed beers.

And football fans, just as in the last several years, there is no need to choose between football and supporting the arts. Catch the big game in the craft beer tent (informally dubbed the “Man Cave”) on four big-screen TVs.

No party is complete without music. In the food tent, traditionalists can don their lederhosen and dance to traditional Oktoberfest music. Not into oompa music? No worries. Head to the main stage instead for some of the area’s best local talent. See sidebar for complete listing.

The event always features a wide variety of unique international foods. Previous years have featured eclectic menus that ranged from traditional German fare to Asian, Greek, Caribbean, Lebanese and other ethnic specialties, as well as American fare. Many Midwest food concessionaires, Dayton-area caterers and service clubs will offer a wide variety of delicious foods.

This year’s artisan wares promise the best of the best. Organizers of the event report a long waiting list of vendors competing to participate in the event. That translates into a spectacular selection of local, regional and national handcrafted pieces for event patrons to chose from.

Finally, last but not least, get your Oktoberfest stein. Just make sure you get it early – the handcrafted, limited edition mugs that have become collector’s items go quickly. In previous years, mugs have sold out by mid-day Saturday (which, incidentally, is when volunteers start working on designs for next year’s mugs). Guests will be able to preview this year’s mug – a cobalt blue pilsner-style mug, on the DAI website before the event. Missing a year in your collection? Rumor has it that a collection of vintage mugs has also been donated and will be available for sale in very limited quantities.

The folks behind the event

In addition to the colorful stories that unfold Saturday night, one of the most interesting narratives behind Oktoberfest is that of the volunteers that run the event. The event, which is the DAI’s single largest fundraiser, is 100 percent volunteer-run. The Dayton Art Institute Associate Board, a group of dedicated museum volunteers, organizes Oktoberfest annually as a fundraiser to support DAI, with all proceeds from the event benefiting The Dayton Art Institute.

The associate board is made up of 64 members (32 couples). Members serve a four-year term, working their way through the ranks, serving on a host of committees that make Oktoberfest possible (as well as the Art Ball – the other DAI fundraiser the associate board organizes). This year’s chairs are John and Brandice Nairus, who are serving a rare fifth year on the associate board.

Putting together a party for thousands of your closest friends takes organization. In previous years, the associate board has maintained a hard-copy binder for the event each year that is passed from chairperson to chairperson, year after year. This year, Brandice, an IT professional in her day job, has undertaken the task of digitizing the binder so that the relevant information lives in the cloud and can be more easily accessed for future chairs.

In addition to the 64 associate board members, more than 2,000 other volunteers help with the massive task of putting on the event. Associate board members and other volunteers and staff are at the event for the entire duration, and then some. The associate board members literally leave the grounds only to sleep for six hours or so until the next day kicks off. Look for associate board members wearing lanyards identifying themselves. If you are having a good time, thank them for their efforts.

Getting tickets and getting there

Given the crowd and the extensive beer and wine selection, the organizers of Oktoberfest recommend taking the shuttle rather than trying to drive. Free parking and shuttle services are available on Sept. 22 and 23. Park at the Welch Packaging Group lot, located one mile east of University of Dayton Arena on Edwin C. Moses Blvd., and take the free shuttle to and from Oktoberfest. Visitors may also park downtown and take the free RTA Oktoberfest shuttle from stops along Main Street, Second Street and Fifth Street in the Oregon District.

Oktoberfest advance tickets may be purchased online at, at the museum’s visitor services desk during regular museum hours or by calling (937) 223-5277. Advance tickets may also be purchased at Arrow Wine & Spirits (all locations), Belmont Party Supply, Chappy’s Tap Room, Cuvee Wine Bar & Cellar, Dorothy Lane Market (all locations) and Dublin Pub.

Reach DCP freelance writer Kevin Gray at



Preview Party, Friday, Sept. 21

8-11 p.m., Soul Pocket

Saturday, Sept.  22

Main Stage

12:30-3:30 p.m., Skilless Villains

4-7 p.m., Hathaways

8-11 p.m., 24/7

Food Tent

Noon-4 p.m., The Chardon Polka Band

4:30-6:30 p.m., Good Times Accordion Band

7-9 p.m., Sauerkraut German Band

Sunday, Sept. 23

Main Stage

Noon-2 p.m., Kick N Flava

2:30-4:30 p.m., Buzz Cats

5-7 p.m., This Side Up

Food Tent

1:30-3:30 p.m., Sauerkraut German Band

4-6 p.m., JT Fedrick & Sax Groove




International: Warsteiner, Franziskaner Dunkel, Grolsch, Crispin Honey Crisp Cider, Harpoon Dark, Corona Familiar, McChouffe, Old Speckled Hen, Weihenstephaner Hefe, Stone Arrogant Bastard, Hoppin’ Frog Goose Juice, Hoppin’ Frog BORIS the Crusher, St. Louis Framboise, Scottish Heavy, La Trappe Quadrupel, Monchshof Schwarzbier

Main Trucks: Miller Lite, Killians, Coors, Leinenkugel Oktoberfest, Third Shift Amber Lager, Crispin Cider

Spaten Trailer: Spaten, Spaten Oktoberfest, Munchen Dunkel, Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse Hell

Craft Draft: Great Lakes Brewing Co. Edmund Fitzgerald, Great Lakes Brewing Co. Commodore Perry, Great Lakes Brewing Co. Oktoberfest, Great Lakes Brewing Co. Nosferatu, Harpoon IPA, Harpoon Leviathan, Harpoon Oktoberfest, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, Fat Head’s Oktoberfest (Bavarian Fest Bier), Shipyard Pumpkinhead

Casks (tapped Saturday – 1 p.m. @ Craft Truck; potential re-tap Sunday 1 p.m.): Great Lakes Brewing Co. Dry Hopped Nosferatu, Great Lakes Brewing Co. Vanilla Infused Edmund Fitzgerald, Mystery Cask from Cavalier

Other: Smirnoff Ice and Warsteiner N/A bottles offered at Beer Truck three only


Turn Me Red, Simi Cabernet Sauvignon, Blufeld Riesling, Schlink Haus Spatlese, Schlink Haus Dornfelder, Hopler Gruer Veltliner, Pellehaute Blanc, Schloss Vollrads Riesling, Chateau Ste Michelle Chardonnay, Mark West California Pinot Noir, Michael David “7 Deadly Zins” Zinfandel, Zardetto Prosecco

*Beer & wine selections subject to change

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