After changes to Oktoberfest, Leavenworth shifts Christmas festivities to reduce crowds

Dec 2, 2021, 9:21 AM | Updated: 11:50 am
Leavenworth Christmas...
Christmas lights in Leavenworth. (Nicole Jennings, KIRO Radio)
(Nicole Jennings, KIRO Radio)

Leavenworth made changes to its annual Oktoberfest in 2021, and it will be making similar tweaks to its annual Christmas festivities.

Leavenworth Oktoberfest changes to street fair in 2021, will move in 2022

In past years, the Bavarian-themed tourist town has held an early-December ceremony to mark the turning on of its Christmas lights, drawing at least 10,000 people in a single evening. Moving forward, the hope is to avoid those large crowds by switching the lights on more informally, while holding a series of Christmas-themed events spread out over numerous days.

According to a recent report from the Seattle Times, the main concerns revolved around having large concentrations of people amid the ongoing spread of COVID-19, with a goal to encourage more visitors on multiple weekdays, rather than funneling crowds into a single weekend event.

“While the Christmas lighting was fun, it became crazy,” Leavenworth hotel co-owner Martin Szuster told the Times. “Busloads of people at the peak of the lighting, thousands of people in town. … Frankly, I think people weren’t having as much fun.”

Upcoming events in Leavenworth now include a day-long bar crawl on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of this upcoming weekend, appearances from Santa and Mrs. Claus, Christmas carolers, a winter market, and more.

How Leavenworth became the PNW’s own slice of Bavaria

While the city’s Chamber of Commerce President Jesse Boyd insists that the town “is not changing, [and] not moving away from festivals,” this marks the second notable shift in Leavenworth’s events in recent months.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2021 version of Leavenworth’s annual Oktoberfest ended up being more of a large street fair. As a result, there were no bands, shuttles, or beer, with more of a focus on a family-friendly atmosphere. Next year, Projekt Bayern — the group which has put on the Oktoberfest event for the last 24 years — will instead put on its own Oktoberfest in Wenatchee, with Leavenworth opting to go with a new organizer for its iteration.

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After changes to Oktoberfest, Leavenworth shifts Christmas festivities to reduce crowds