OAKLAND -- On a perfect, temperate fall day, more than 15,000 people packed shoulder-to-shoulder into the Dimond district to celebrate the fifth annual Oaktoberfest on Saturday.
"Thousands of people are here today," said Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente. "The Dimond is now alive. You can see it, feel it and hear it."
Oaklanders raised their steins to celebrate their city. The crowd was sprinkled with the occasional man and woman decked out in traditional German attire, beer steins in hand.
"We were going to go to Germany, but we decided to come here instead," joked Russell Robinson, of Montclair. "This is the type of street fair that makes Oakland a great city. The different kinds of people, the smells, the sights, the food -- this is great. It's the kind of event that makes people want to come to Oakland."
As the name promised, many Northern California breweries were present offering samples of their brews. Mad Zymurgists, Linden Street Brewery, Trumer Pils and Triple Rock breweries -- to name a few -- were all pouring throughout the day.
The culinary fare was also as eclectic as the city itself. Authentic German sausages were plentiful, but there were offerings like hot potato and spinach knishes, catfish, wings and garlic fries for those looking for something different.
In keeping with the diversity of the city itself, entertainment included everything from belly dancers to hip hop dance groups, from hard
Community groups from all around the city were invited to join the events and fundraise for their individual causes alongside the sponsors, the Dimond Improvement Association and the Dimond Business and Professional Association.
Chef and restaurateur Robert Dorsey participated in the event with his group, the Junior Chefs Society. The former owner of Blackberry Bistro on Park Boulevard created the society last spring to mentor youth in the art of cooking and restaurant management.
"My goal is to give young adults exposure." I want all the young folks to know about this business," Dorsey said. "It's a way to shrink the world."
At the festival, the group added to their coffers by selling fire-roasted corn on the cob and hibiscus lemonade. Proceeds will go toward maintaining the society's garden at Lake Merritt and developing curriculum for the expansion of the program.
Audrey Jones-Taylor, Oakland's director of parks and recreation, can't stress enough how important it is to keep kids busy. The parks and recreation center was responsible for the activities at the children's area, with a variety of games for the event to complement the ever-popular root beer garden.
"We should do this more often," said Joe Tam, owner of Farmer Joe's Marketplace. "People from outside (the area) get the wrong image of Oakland. It's just not fair."
"The Oaktoberfest family is an incredible community of partners supporting each other in business, in service and in person to ensure the small world we live in is filled with big hearts and shared successes," said Daniel Swafford, Oaktoberfest's managing director. "This one-day festivity draws connectivity and resources to event partners that support their efforts throughout the year."