MARS HILL, Maine — Local spirits and fare flowed freely Saturday at The County’s Oktoberfest.
The third annual event, hosted by the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce, drew an enthusiastic gathering to Mars Hill’s Legacy Ranch & Event Center.
Northern Maine Brewing of Caribou and First Mile Brewery of Fort Kent, along with Hidden Spring winery of Hodgdon, created special beverages just for the event. People milled about, several in traditional German-style costume, both inside the main venue and outdoors where games like the keg toss took place.
Though most of those attending hailed from central Aroostook, a Montana couple made the festival part of their first trip through Maine.
“It’s just something we’ve always talked about: to go to Maine,” Pete Delzer of Gallatin Gateway, Montana, said.
Delzer’s wife, Kelli, gave him a one-way ticket to Portland for his birthday, and the couple planned a trip for fall foliage time. They contacted the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce for some tips, and when they found out about Oktoberfest that clinched the deal, Kelli Delzer said.
While in The County, they discovered what a small world it is.
They were chatting with Rodney Lahren, one of the owners of First Mile Brewing. He is from Montana and knows some of the Delzers’ family, and they know some of his, Kelli Delzer said.
The couple also visited Fort Fairfield, where they met Wade resident Sterling Wilcox. A World War II veteran, Wilcox served at the Darmstadt, Germany, base where Kelli was stationed, she said. He was there during its heyday, and she was sent there to help close the facility.
“The highlight of our time has been the people. I can’t get over the wonderful people we’ve met,” Kelli Delzer said.
The couple were also among 20 participants in the popular keg toss event. Contestants had two chances to throw an empty metal keg from a starting line; their farthest distance was recorded.
Rachel Palmer of Easton won the women’s contest with a throw of 27 feet, 6 inches. On the men’s side, Griffin Goins of Presque Isle won with a toss of 44 feet, 7 inches.
Beverage makers each crafted something special just for Oktoberfest.
First Mile debuted the Oktoberfest brew, which Lahren described as a “less hoppy” beer made with grains from Mapleton’s Maine Malt House. They also had an ale made with haskap berries from Allagash.
Northern Maine Brewing created Harvest Break, a seasonal lager, for the occasion, said Justin McLauchlan, one of the owners who was manning the station with colleague Dan Jandreau.
Hidden Spring brought a mulled apple spice wine. The apple wine was mixed with mulling spices in a slow cooker and served warm, said owner Richard Sloat.
This was the first year it hadn’t rained all day for the event, said LaNiece Sirois, chamber executive director.
“People are having a great time,” she said. “We have some people who’ve been here all three years.”